Tennis and the Olympics — A Somewhat Crazy Proposal
by Dan Martin | August 8th, 2008, 9:30 am
  • 42 Comments

Tennis has 4 major events played in 4 different countries that draw players from incredibly diverse nationalities. This fact along with two globe trotting tours, Davis Cup and Federation Cup may be enough to make tennis a sport that does not need to be in the Olympics. However, if tennis is to be in the Olympics let me propose that tennis switch to the Winter Olympics. Before dismissing this consider the following:


1. Many Olympic Games fall between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. This leaves tennis’ top talent with few chances to recuperate from the grueling French Open to Wimbledon transition before embarking on a hot humid and physically taxing hard court season. Seoul and Sydney did fall after the U.S. Open and received stronger player interest, but even in Sydney the top two ranked players in the world, Marat Safin and Gustavo Kuerten, fell early while popular veterans, Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter and Pete Sampras, sat out the games for various reasons. Even in ideal conditions for tennis such as those posed by Sydney and Seoul no one has the proper energy to fight for Gold after playing 4 Grand Slam events, 7 Masters Series events and a host of other tournaments all over the world. When the Olympic Games fall between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, it creates the havoc we have seen this Summer.

2. Unless the Winter Olympics fall right before or right after the Australian Open, the problems posed by schedule fatigue would be avoided. It would also avert the current reality of playing the French Open, Wimbledon, Olympic Tennis and the U.S. Open in fewer than 4 months.

3. People play tennis in the winter on indoor courts.

4. There is no Grand Slam event primarily contested in an indoor environment. Sure a few retractable roofs may throw in the odd indoor match in Melbourne and London, but there is no “Indoor Grand Slam.” This would help Olympic Tennis stand apart from the regular tours.

5. Subtle rule changes could make a nod to everyday players who play indoors. Since indoor courts are normally rented by the hour and time is precious for the average indoor player, no-ad scoring could be employed by Olympic Tennis. In this spirit, perhaps let cords on the serve could also be played as good if they land in the service box.

6. The Winter Olympics have flying tomatoes and an increasingly Winter X-Games feel to them. Tennis could be a sports oasis for people not interested in watching a snow boarder blow a gold medal due to showboating.

I do not think tennis needs to be in the Olympics as it is already international in nature and has respected international competitions such as Davis Cup. Still, if Indoor Volleyball and Beach Volleyball can both be Olympic sports, why not have indoor tennis represent the dreams of winter hackers everywhere?

PS – I admit I am now too poor to play indoor tennis in the winter so I guess this does not apply to me. Alas, the halcyon days of junior events held indoors are now but a distant painful memory.


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42 Comments for Tennis and the Olympics — A Somewhat Crazy Proposal

Gordo Says:

Dan – it is crazy, because Olympic sports must be events involving ice or snow.

Mind you, it would be interesting to see how the players adapt to a court on an ice rink.


Cici Says:

Personally, I do not feel that PROfessional athletes should be allowed to enter in the Olympic Games. It’s unfair to amateur athletes, whom do not play the sport as a career.

As for tennis in the Winter Olympics, I agree with Gordo, the Winter Games are for events involving ice or snow. If a player or players feel the pressure of the ATP Tour coinciding with the Olympics, then simply do not play the Olympics


sar Says:

Someone is not happy
http://globoesporte.globo.com/Esportes/Fotos/0,,GF61113-9645,00.html#fotogaleria=1


pam Says:

The main reason tennis has grown so much over the last twenty years is because of its reinstatement into the Olympics. Countries now fund tennis programs in the hopes of getting an Olympic champion. Russia and China’s success in tennis is directly related to the fact that it is an Olympic sport. If you love tennis and want to see the sport grow, then you will want tennis to remain an Olympic sport. I would like to see a team element added to the games, similar to the NCAA’s.


Dan_Martin Says:

Of course this is intended as satire. Unless rackets are used as snow shoes, tennis can’t be a winter Olympic Sport, but it would clear up some scheduling messes.


Debra Gardner Says:

iF WE CAN’T HAVE TENNIS AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS-ICE TENNIS ANYONE?-THEN HOW ABOUT DROPPING A SLAM DURING THE YEAR THAT THE OLYMPICS RUN. tHAT MIGHT SOLVE THE WHOLE PROBLEM OF PROFESSIONALS PLAYING BECAUSE THEY’D PROBABLY NOT SHOW UP AT THE OLYMPICS IF THEY HAD TO GIVE UP A SLAM! i’VE HAD MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT PROFESSIONALS PLAYING THE OLYMPICS FOR YEARS BECAUSE SOMETIMES THEY TEND TO OVERSHADOW THE AMATEURS WHO GET PRECIOUS LITTLE ATTENTION AS IT IS. sO MANY OF THE OTHER PROFESSIONAL SPORTS ARE ON THEIR OFF-SEASON DURING THE OLYMPICS. tENNIS MAY BE THE ONLY SPORT WHERE THE oLYMPICS IS RIGHT SMACK IN THE MIDDLE. i KNOW IT DOES RAISE THE FLAG OF ATTENTION TO THOSE WHO SEE IT THERE, BUT TENNIS IS STILL AN EXPENSIVE GAME TO PLAY AND UNTIL SOMEONE FIGURES OUT A GAME CALLED “STREET” TENNIS, ITS OVERALL POPULARITY WON’T BE THE SAME AS OTHER SPORTS THAT CAN BE PLAYED MORE EASILY.


Samprazzz Says:

How about tennis in the Winter Olympics, played on ice? The players would wear spike shoes for traction. I think you would see alot of serve-and-volley.
Having a regular draw format for the Olympics is ridiculous. They should have it like soccer, with groups, and 1 ‘pro-set’ matches. Then, when the elimination round comes, best 2 of 3 sets.


zola Says:

Dan,
to me winter olympics means ince and snow! I can’t somehow place tennis there.

what if one of the master series is repleced by the Olympic tennis? and players get the same points?
They pretty much play the same ormat in the olympics!


Dan Martin Says:

Zola like I said above this is satire. I really don’t like tennis in the Olympics so I made my own crazy proposal…


joe Says:

Rediculous article.


Dan Martin Says:

Maybe if the players had to eat snow cones during change overs that would qualify the game for the Winter Olympics.


zola Says:

Dan,
you never know. The Disney man likes crazy ideas!


zola Says:

But I was serious.I think it is brutal for the players to travel to china in the middle of their own match series. But ATP could have eliminated Cincy or Tornto and replaced it withthe Olympics ( of course not back to back), or eliminatd both and gave GS points to the Olympic participants.

Hey Etienne,! Over here!


Von Says:

Dan: I like the satire!!

For starters, as I mentioned on the other thread, I don’t feel professional athletes should be allowed to compete in the Olympics; it’s a deviation from the true purpose and intent of the meaning of the Olympics. Next, I agree with Samprazz, the draw should not be done according to the regular format — seeding. I feel a Round Robin format or a pot luck draw would be more fair. The present draw is somewhat lopsided and favors some players more than others. It’s somewhat similar to the draws we see during the regular season. Finally, if it were not for the enticement of the free 400 points the players can pick up, most of the tennis players would not be competing. It’s not a matter of nationalistic pride considering how they quibble about playing Davis Cup. Davis Cup is Tennis’ Olympics, but many don’t compete because there aren’t any free points to be gotten. I suppose the question “What’s in it for me” is one that’s a true manifestation of how some of the players feel about competing in Davis Cup.


TalkAboutSport Says:

I don’t think many major players care that much about the Olympics since it is not a major challenging tennis tournament. It is in the way of training for the US Open… which most players care more about.. Check out my blog at http://talkaboutsport.blogspot.com/


zola Says:

talkaboutsport

actually the draw is very competetive. because there is no one below 56 or 64. Only the top players can compete so it is much harder than the master series or the GS, where the top players van have someone with a very low ranking in the first round. no chance here.

It can’t be a training for the US Open. the conditions in Beijing are brutal. lots of humidity, air pollution.I think those who will go deep in the Olympics will lose their chance to do well in the US Open.


Von Says:

The present Olympic draw is challenging and it defies logic that any player would use it as a tune-up for the US Open, considering the smog, which is at dangerous breathing levels, and the air travel involved. Most of the players will be feeling the deleterious side effects of the smog and air travel, which will affect their performance at the US Open. To me it’s an exercise in futility and one that’s not worth the free points. Only one player will win 400 points and the others will pay the price.


zola Says:

Lots of credit to the players who are now in Beijing in these harsh conditions. Only a few top players have missed the Olympics or chose not to go for various reason. I am sure the rest did not go there only to earn points, but many like the honor to represent their country and feel the Olympic life. Just like the players who participate in the Davis cup year after year.

Tennis is an individual game, so for many, Davis cup or the Olympics provides the opportunity of being a team member. I hope now that they are there, they all enjoy this unique experience.


Von Says:

At the Olympics, the tennis players are not playing as a team but as individuals fighting for the opportunity to win a medal. This is different from Davis Cup where they play as a team representing their country. There’s one aspect of Davis Cup that I don’t agree with, and that is, the players can choose to skip playing at the initial stages. To me that’s unfair to the players who win the first round ties and then are pushed out due to a higher ranked player wanting to play in the SFs and the final. The team should consist of the same players from beginning to end, unless a player becomes sick or faces circumstances beyond his control which will prevent him from competing.


Shital Green Says:

One of most beautiful things at the Olympic opening ceremony was the US fielded Lopez Lomong, a refugee from Sudan, as its flag bearer.
Compare this with Federer as Swiss flag bearer.


Cut the Sheet Says:

One of the nicest things about the Swiss is that they mind their business, without provoking others.

Compare this with americans like sheet who poke a finger up other people’s arse and smell it and say it smells like sheet!


Colin Says:

If, as some people advocate, the Olympics were to be restricted to amateur athletes, the result would be a Games performed by wealthy people who could afford to devote their time to sport, not to mention the travel costs. Again, it would to some extent be like tennis before the professionals were included. In those days, people watching Wimbledon or the US Open, if they knew their tennis, were aware that the winner of the tournament was not in the class of the top pros. In other words, it would take the shine off the event.
Finally, there still seem to be some folk here unaware that the track and field athletes in Beijing are all pros, earning their living by running, jumping or throwing, even though they aren’t paid at the Olympics.


sar Says:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/olympics/article4484732.ece

Andy Murray insisted today that his mother is wrong and that he can do
well at both the Olympic Games and the US Open which begins the day
after the end of China’s sporting extravaganza.

Judy Murray had suggested that anyone who goes deep into the Olympic
competition could struggle at Flushing Meadows, but her son said: “I
think she’s wrong. It makes it harder if you do well, but between now
and the final of the US Open there are three weeks. You are going to
have at least two weeks off because you only play every other day at the
[grand] slams, so if you do all the right things in between then you can
do well.”


jane Says:

Maybe having winter tennis is a good idea, Dan, satirical or not? Here’s what some of the players are saying about the weather and air quality conditions in China:

Gonzalez:

“The conditions are really tough with the pollution and it’s really hot,”

Hantuchova:

“It’s tough. It’s maybe the hottest weather I’ve experienced,”

Stosur:

“It is very hot and very humid and the sun isn’t even out yet, so I’m sure it will probably only get worse from here. It is unpredictable and probably the hottest conditions we are going to play in all year,”

Djokovic:

“Conditions are extreme…”I never, ever played in worse humidity than here.”

———–

Allow me to get on a soapbox for a minute and just say that we can’t underestimate global warming and pollution as they affect everything, including the athletes.

Interestingly, I read that the WTA allows players to request a 10-minute break if the temperatures reach excessive levels. But the ATP has no equivalent – is this true? Does anyone know? I know that there is a rule in place for the AO but I don’t know/think it extends elsewhere.

In another article, not directly linked to tennis, but to the conditions, I read this:

“A third of the riders in Saturday’s Olympic men’s cycling road race did not finish and tennis officials said they were considering allowing heat breaks as Beijing’s stifling humidity took a punishing toll on athletes.

Temperatures into the high 90s Fahrenheit (above 35 Celsius), suffocating humidity and murky haze have combined to produce what competitors from several sports says are the most difficult conditions they have faced.”

“I had a terrible headache. I don’t know where it came from. Probably the pollution,” said Germany’s Schumacher, who showed impressive form on the Tour last month, winning two time-trials. “It feels like you’re at 3,000 metres because of the air. You cannot breathe. The air is thick and there is smog.”

——————————

Simply put – NOT GOOD for the athletes!!


zola Says:

Jane,
I think on top of the heat, the extreme humidity and the air pollution is what bothers the athletes.

and I agree that with the global warming, the conditions may not get better. But China may have not been the best choice. there are more than 10,000 athletes we are talking about. and even spectators said that there were no air conditioning in the openning ceremony and people had to get out of the arena to breath!
Imagine the poor athletes that had to wait for hours before getting into the arena….

all in all, I am not too excited about these olympics.whoever is out early should not be upset.
It is a huge minus for the olympic committee. More politics than sport I say!


zola Says:

Sar,
Love that confidence from Andy Murray!
Ah….to be 21 again!


Mary Says:

this site has the live coverage that NBC will show later… but WITH NO ANNOUNCERS. It’s not a full-sized screen, but the feeds are very clear.

Since there are no announcers, have a few drinks and become your own announcer!
http://channelsurfing.net./

I’m glad they asked the most well-balanced, hang-in-there-athletes Hantuchova and Nole there opinions on the conditions. Now they have their excuse for quitting.

I don’t mind the sport in the Games. EVERY athlete is a pro-don’t fool yourself. While they should move around some tournements, the athletes will survive.

I will incorporate “Compare this with Federer as Swiss flag bearer” as often as possible.

USA!


Mary Says:

“At the Olympics, the tennis players are not playing as a team but as individuals fighting for the opportunity to win a medal.”

Their playing to win a medal for their country. If it was individual, each winner would have their own personal anthem played.


Von Says:

The medals are for the counbtry yes, but it’s still a personal win. If not it would just be USA won 7 medals, but it would be a collective effort of each athlete and their names would be mentioned. Don’t they state Agassi won a Gold? It’s his gold medal and he fought to win it for himself and The US also got the glory. If it was for the country, the athletes would not be able to keep the medals. The anthem is played because the athletes are the country’s representative. This is debatable, and it’s just my views.

Anyway, the US has already won about 4 medals today. GO USA!!


jane Says:

Mary,

“I’m glad they asked the most well-balanced, hang-in-there-athletes Hantuchova and Nole there opinions on the conditions. Now they have their excuse for quitting.”

Just so you know, Djokovic also said this “”It’s hard to adapt but you can’t cry and look for excuses.”"

I am sure all the athletes are being asked about the conditions so they’re responding honestly, but of course they’ll all do their best to adapt. I don’t think they’re looking for excuses – seems kind of cynical.


jane Says:

The tennis players definitely want to win medals for personal, as well as patriotic, reasons – I’d say it’s both. But in tennis there is even something called a Golden Slam, in which an individual athlete receives special accolades because he/she has won all the slams and Olympic Gold (e.g., Graff or Nestor). So there can be little doubt that competing in the Olympics goes beyond patriotism.


Mary Says:

I hope Nole does not come down with a sore throat.


jane Says:

Mary,

He won’t.

But Ivanovic withdrew with a hand injury. Davydenko beat Gulbis easily, and Gonzalez and Blake are also through.


jane Says:

Berdych won too. So far, the top seeds are through easily.


freakyfrites Says:

I wish there was a way to incorporate the Davis Cup format into the Olympics (without the surface variations of course!) But it’s hard to figure out the right thing to do – without making tennis into a crazy exhibition.

The article’s right – the only thing that makes sense is to have it in the winter! Surface: hard pack.


zola Says:

freaky frites
I absolutely agree. I don’t know how the soccer is played in the olympics, but I doubt that they employ the world cup format! I don’t understand why the players have to play a full tournament. It is brutal.

There can be qualifying rounds prior to the olympics, like the first or second rounds of the Davis cup. so that in the olympics they only play QF. SF and the final. three matches instead of 6 or 7.


Andrew Miller Says:

Gosh, the conditions out there must be awful in Beijing!

Got to hand it to Roddick: even though he’s ducking the olympics and missing out on some of the fun and depriving his fiancee of a chance to see the olympics (probably told her they can score tickets for 2012 and enjoy it more as spectators) he definitely is trying to get some better positioning for the US Open. I dont think he’ll regret not medaling at the Olympics.

That said, I dont know what Roddick’s chances look like for the US Open! The new guard is really coming on strong. Del Potro basically walked into Roddick’s house and ripped away the keys (granted, it was ONE of Roddick’s many houses – that being the Los Angeles tournament and a U.S. mid-level tennis event).

So if Del Potro is finding his range under pressure (and as Roddick said – someone can have the weapons but not deliver on the goods, but he likes what he sees in Del Potro) and others around that area (the Gasquet/Monfils/Berdych/Baghdatis crew) are competing fiercely, then that complicates the picture at this year’s US OPEN for the old guard (Federer, Roddick, Safin , Hewitt, Gonzalez, Davydenko etc) and the young champions (Nadal, Djokovic).

If Federer pulls this US Open out, it will be his sweetest victory to date.

But I aint about to jinx him! I will say that Roddick’s decision to skip China looks good right now, but now that he hasnt won in Los Angeles, it’s going to be a tough Open for Roddick fans. Here’s hoping he and Federer find their range.

(Nadal and Djokovic have had great years. They dont have to win the US Open…sheesh let someone else win it who hasnt won it for a while or needs a boost!)


zola Says:

Andrew Miller,
I think Roddick fans should be happy that he can play well and is hopefully over that injury. A title would have been good, but at least he played the final.

About US Open, if the hard courts master series is a key, then definitely it is for Rafa, Djoko and Murray to grab. Seems Fed is playing well too. so then he is a great favirite as the defending champion.

But I don’t agree with the statement: “let someone else win it who hasnt won it for a while or needs a boost!”

It is not a charity. It is a competetion. A win is the result of lots of play and lots of practice. I would say, let whoever plays better , wins!


Von Says:

Andrew Miller:

“(Nadal and Djokovic have had great years. They dont have to win the US Open…sheesh let someone else win it who hasnt won it for a while or needs a boost!)”

I agree with you. I’m an advocate of sharing the wealth/spoils. The top players have enjoyed a lot of wins and Fed has dominated for 4 years now. That said, I’d like to see another player, who has not had any significant wins in his career, or who has been struggling for a while to have a break through and win the USO. The competition is tough, so it goes without saying that whoever wins, has to fight hard and play very well, because no one is going to give it to them on a platter, and it will be a well deserved victory. I has happy to see those Safin, Clement and Schuettler get to the SFs at Wimby. That kind of success gives the older players some inspiration to keep on fighting.

Re Roddick, I think he most probably would have won had his back not become stiff and sore again. It’s normal to have a relapse as the body is not accustomed to that kind of physical stress playing everyday, after being laid up for over 3 months. I believe when people are laid up for a while, they need to gently ease themselves back into their schedule, not 4 matches in a row. I’m looking foward to Roddick doing well at the USO, hopefully, bettering last year’s results and salvaging this season, which has been a tough one for him with injuries.


Roddick is a donkey Says:

Donkey is done! stick a fork in him. His fans can make any number of excuses, but the simple truth is that a serve and forehand just wont cut it on most of the moderate paced courts out there. Del Potro broke the donkeys back with some smart tennis.

ATP is no more the rock-throwing fest it was till late 90s. More back-breaking for the donkey. It is so much fun to see him lose.

Anyone but the donkey!


I like tennis bullies not tennis sissies Says:

One of most beautiful things at the Olympic opening ceremony was the US fielded Lopez Lomong, a refugee from Sudan, as its flag bearer. Compare this with Federer as Swiss flag bearer.
==========

agreed. this is the second time federer has been flag bearer for switzerland. does that country not have any other athlete to carry the flag? it is not fair to the other athletes that federer carry it twice, he’s not even world number one anymore.

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