On the eve of the draw, a few thoughts on the upcoming Olympic games and on its place in tennis and the favorites.
1. Does Tennis Belong In The Olympics?
I’m not 100% behind tennis being part of the Games. No one tunes into the Olympics exclusively for the tennis – no one I know of at least – because we see it and live it virtually every week of the year. So as Andy Murray said, it becomes just like any other event.
However, that’s the not the case for the multitude of athletes competing in track, gymnastics, swimming, weightlifting, etc. Those are the sports most of us watch once every four years and that’s it. And for those athletes, this is their time to shine. If they don’t, they have to wait another four excruciating years.
Meanwhile, if Novak Djokovic loses, sure he’ll feel the sting, but Cincinnati starts in a couple weeks and then it’s onto the US Open.
But back to the original question. Yes, it belongs. Why? Well, for one tennis is a grueling mano-a-mano competition of strength, willpower, coordination and endurance. So just on how tough it is to compete, it belongs.
And it also belongs because by being part of the Games tennis gets exposure in smaller countries which will now allocate funds to try to get players involved in the sport. Otherwise, that money might go to another sport (or a more worthwhile, non-sporting cause, but that’s a far greater issue). So net result, a little more money flows into the sport and that helps. And since basketball, soccer, now golf, and cycling all do it, why not tennis?
2. Do They Players Care About The Olympics
The American men really don’t. Or maybe because it falls during their season when John Isner can make big sums of money playing in the U.S. at an event like Atlanta. He’s not winning Rio! Plus, Atlanta could improve his ranking something that couldn’t happen in Rio.
And for the American men, they are not heroes here when they win. Once Serena and Venus win they will suck up any and all attention in the tennis event, so we probably won’t hear much from tennis otherwise. At least not in the U.S.
As for the rest of the planet, some players do care, some don’t.
I’m mixed on the issue. If you want to play, play. If not, then don’t. I guess at this point it’s an individual thing and as a whole Olympics tennis still hasn’t defined its place in the pro sport.
3. Were The Removal Of Points A Factor In All The Withdrawals?
In years past, the Olympics offered those precious ranking points. That’s no longer the case. This year no ATP or WTA will be awarded, and the impact? Yup, more withdrawals.
So it’s a factor, especially for the men. But there are more factors.
4. What About The Zika Virus
I say not a factor. That said, the virus is real. I just feel in this case using it just a convenient excuse. And that’s fine.
I would argue if there was no Zika virus issue, we’d still get the same withdrawals. Players understandably not wanting to make the trip, and since there are no points and no prize money and the dominance of Djokovic/Murray? Plus the uncertainty over the Rio Infrastructure? Well, why bother?
Meanwhile, the women are showing up! And aren’t they the ones most at risk? Weird, right?
5. Too Much Tennis
Playing Canada, then Rio (with doubles for some) and then Cincinnati, week off and then the US Open? That’s asking a lot. But that’s what tennis is asking from its top players.
Throw in Davis Cup and Fed Cup and the schedule during Olympic years needs to be managed better by the Powers That be, because right now it’s insane to expect someone to sweep all three let alone four. And that’s not how it should be!
The calendar shouldn’t be set up to make it almost impossible for players to be at their best at the biggest events. That makes no sense. And we can’t have this happen every four years. Because as it stands it’s unfair to players and to the tournaments like Canada, the Olympics and Cincinnati. And everyone suffers – players get injured, players withdraw, fans are upset, etc.
It’s got to change and I think it will for 2020.
6. Who’s The Favorite?
After a stunning loss at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic kind of got back on track in Toronto. It wasn’t a strong start to the week but it was a strong finish for the Serb. After a sloppy first set in the semifinals against Monfils, in an instant Djokovic regained his form and rolled over the Frenchman and then maintained the momentum taking care of business in the final beating Kei Nishikori.
So like I said, and every player knows it, it’s Djokovic and Murray. Djokovic is 1, Murray is 2 and then it’s a big dropoff to maybe Nishikori as the third favorite? After his it’s…Does it matter? Probably not. But there is Novak’s serving issue and a possible shoulder injury Troicki had revealed to ESPN during the weekend.
The only other X-factor is the playing surface. Maybe someone like Murray might have a better chance against Novak if it was a quick court.
Otherwise, it’s Novak-Murray in the final two Sundays from now.
7. What About Rafa?
Well, I’m glad he’s playing, but expectations are low. I do worry if he plays too much and inflames that wrist the US Open could be off the board. I just have to wonder with Novak and Andy such big favorites and with two months off of no tennis, does he really he want to push himself that hard?
I respect Rafa for going and I’m glad he’s back on court, but even if he was 100% healthy it’s a slim chance to win. So is it worth the risk and especially of overplaying by competing in all the doubles? I hope it works out for him.
The draw comes out Thursday morning and the singles and doubles begin on Saturday.
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