2012 Games: Lost Cause Of Olympic Tennis Takes A Turn For The Better

Antony HerbertAnalyst IIIDecember 11, 2009

LONDON - JULY 08:  Jamie Murray of Great Britain and partner Jelena Jankovic of Serbia celebrate with their winners trophies following the Mixed Doubles final match against Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden and Alicia Molik of Australia during day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 8, 2007 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Now let’s be honest, the Olympics Games and tennis don’t exactly go hand in hand.

Tennis as a sport is included within each four yearly games and medals are awarded, but it is not the biggest accolade for the sport and for the stars that compete in it.

If you think of an athlete, and by athlete I refer to track and field sportsmen and women, they will always agree that the pinnacle of their careers is to achieve Olympic gold. Such a view for them is the reason why we saw the complete self destruction of Paula Radcliffe when she failed to accomplish her expected feat in the last two games in Athens and Beijing.

Tennis on the other hand has the likes of Wimbledon and the US Open to keep its stars inspired and otherwise occupied. An Olympic medal for them is just an added bonus if they succeed in the aforementioned Grand Slams. For some players an Olympic medal does become an achievement in itself, but only because its an easier win.

This vision progressed somewhat in the last Olympic tournament with the unbeatable Williams Sisters winning the doubles gold medal and Federer also achieving gold.

This contrasted with previous games where the world number one always ended up avoiding glory, instead making way for a lower seed, or worse an un-seeded player to triumph. The higher ranked players visibly and verbally expressed their alternative interests in the Grand Slams as opposed to the thought of Olympic gold.

How can the Olympics therefore represent the best of tennis if the best in tennis do not want to participate and dominate?

And so we move to the London Olympics of 2012 with an addition to the tennis schedule as it will now include a mixed doubles event to accompany the already stated singles events and male and female doubles events.

Obviously this is not going to produce a complete shift in participation, but it will help with the sports reputation as an Olympic sport in the long run.  

I myself am often perplexed that it’s only really grand slams where any doubles action is seen on court.

Yes tennis is an individual pursuit for the majority with avid spectators in agreement, but doubles provides a completely differed spectacle for us to observe. It provides us with longer rallies for a start and can often deter the game from first serve point’s winners which can sometimes lower the excitement of the game. Four sets of legs can sometimes be better than two in producing more enticing matches.

Mixed doubles has its extra charm also in allowing both sexes to compete on an equal playing field. Everyone gets to serve against everyone, and everyone gets to play against everyone no matter their build or gender.

The standard of tennis falters only due to the players greater concentration on the singles game but there are those who gain advantages in this alternative competition and as a result play to the best of their ability at all opportunities.

And if we are given the opportunity to see inspirational scenes such as those witnessed at Wimbledon two years ago with Jelena Jankovic and Jamie Murray we are definitely in for a treat.

Sometimes the dogged determination and crazed acrobatics seen by players desperate to keep a ball in play are the most spectacular in a mixed doubles game.


If not only the introduction of the mixed doubles game garners more exposure to the sport as a celebrated Olympic event, it will also hopefully draw in a couple more big names to the forefront. The actual number of competitors able to take part has been confirmed as not changing, thus hopefully enabling the quality of those who sign up to improve as a result. The weaker players who have previously gained gold medals in games where they don’t have to beat the worlds best may come unstuck.

If there is an extra gold medal up for grabs then the idea will be that the likes of Nadal, Murray and Federer will become more willing to participate and add to their already bulging trophy cabinets.

British hopes may improve also if we have the likes of the Murray brothers and junior players Laura Robson and Heather Watson in contention in three years time.  

After all a gold medal is a gold medal in whichever sport you participate and especially for Robson and Watson it may provide them with a stepping stone to greater things.

No-one expects miracles with the inclusion of the mixed doubles game to the Olympic schedule, but the wish is that it will simply promote contribution and portray a greater excellence as a conclusion.