2012 Olympics | July 27 - August 12
Posted: Sunday July 22, 2012 4:17PM ; Updated: Monday July 30, 2012 2:27PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>INSIDE TENNIS

Olympic tennis preview

Story Highlights

After dominant Wimbledon runs, Roger Federer and Serena Williams are favorites

Pressure's on Andy Murray as he looks to break through at the All England Club

The tennis events offer a lot of hope for Americans to capture medals in London

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Roger Federer Olympics
Roger Federer (left) won Olympic doubles gold with Stan Warinka in 2008, but has never medaled in singles.
Getty Images

SI.com's writers will preview each event from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Here, Jon Wertheim looks ahead to tennis.

Each year in tennis, they hold four major events. But, damn the calendar, there is a fifth in 2012. Poll the players in the men's and women's locker rooms and a good number of them will admit that winning an Olympic gold medal would mean every bit as much as winning hardware at Wimbledon or the Australian, French and U.S. Opens.

Part of this is simply the gravitas of the Olympics. Some of this is the overlay of competing for your country in what is otherwise such a fiercely individual, necessarily self-absorbed sport.

SPORTS EXPLAINERS: TENNIS

Some of this is the make-up of the field: Tennis has become such a relentlessly global sport and for many players, they represent their country's best chances at gold. There is, for instance, no Kevin Durant or Michael Phelps in Serbia; thus a country's hopes rest largely on Novak Djokovic's wiry shoulders.

This year, though, the prestige of the Olympic tennis event gets an extra bump from the venue. They'll hold the competition on the lawns of the All England Club, the same hallowed -- hollowed if you're Brad Gilbert -- ground where they hold Wimbledon. The Olympic organizers have made a point of stressing the differences, emphasizing that this will not be Wimbledon Part II. The grounds will look different. There will be a new color scheme and corporate logos on the fences. Players will not be required to wear all-white attire. Most of the men's matches will be best-of-three sets, not best-of-five.

But it's still the sport's cathedral. It's also still grasscourt tennis. As such, the results from Wimbledon ought to have some predictive value when divining medal winners. The draw won't take place until July 26, but here are our overall picks on each event with the caveat that the draw could eliminate specific medal possibilities.

Mens Singles

Gold, Roger Federer (SUI): Hard to pick anyone else, given his play at Wimbledon.

Silver, Novak Djokovic (SRB): He may be dragging physically and mentally but he is the 2011 Wimbledon champ and, until recently the world No. 1. Perhaps more than any other player, Djokovic is motivated by country.

Bronze, Andy Murray (GBR): Tennis is big on karma and no one deserves it more than Murray. Plus Rafael Nadal's withdrawal opens the field up.

Women's Singles

Gold, Serena Williams (USA): Like Federer, how do you pick against her, given her recent form on grass?

Silver: Victoria Azarenka (BLR): Now back as the top-ranked woman, she's due for a strong showing.

Sabine Lisicki (GER): After Serena, the biggest serve in the women's game, which should pay dividends on grass.

Men's Doubles

Gold, Bob and Mike Bryan (USA): California twins are still among the best in the business.

Silver, Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra (FRA): French veterans particularly dangerous on grass.

Bronze, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna (IND): Indian tennis has more drama than an episode of Girls. These two are not only among the two best doubles practitioners but (unlike Bhupathi and Leander Paes) actually like each other.

Women's Doubles

Gold, Venus and Serena Williams (USA): Wimbledon champs and two-time gold medalists. It will be a considerable upset if they don't win.

Silver, Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber (USA): Currently the WTA's No. 1 ranked team.

Bronze, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani (ITA): The No. 2 two team and French Open winners.

Mixed Doubles

Teams yet to be established (players have until July 31 to sign in) but our pick for gold:

Lisa Raymond and Mike Bryan (USA): Wimbledon winners.

Athletes To Watch

As with any major event, almost every tennis player of note will be in the field except for Nadal, who withdrew, saying he was "not in condition to compete." While the draw has yet to be made, the usual tennis themes and questions apply: Can Federer garnish his legacy still further by winning gold? Who will step up to capitalize on Nadal's absence? Can Murray rebound from his dispiriting Wimbledon defeat and win a medal representing Great Britain? Can Serena Williams continue her recent dominance on grass? Can anyone touch the Williams sisters in doubles? Which of the recent WTA major winners (Maria Sharapova, Vicoria Azarenka, Sam Stosur, Li Na) will ascend and which will descend?

It all should make for a great show.

U.S. Prospects

Lots to chose from here. While it would be a considerable upset if the U.S. medalled in men's singles, every other event is ripe. Fresh from winning Wimbledon, Serena Williams is the pick here to take gold in women's singles. She and her sister, Venus, have never lost in Olympic doubles and ought to take the gold -- as they did in both 2000 and 2008. What's more, Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber are currently the WTA's top-ranked doubles team. California twins, Bob and Mike Bryan are a proven men's doubles team. And Mike Bryan and Raymond just won the mixed title at Wimbledon. Bottom line: This has the potential for a fine haul for the Americans.

Underdog tale

Varvara Lepchenko was born and raised in Uzbekistan. She showed a talent for tennis and, in search of a better life, the family left for Florida in 2002. Though money was tight -- unable to afford a bike, much less car, the family rollerbladed to the court -- the Lepchenkos stayed and were granted political asylum. Based in Allentown, Pa., Lepchenko slowly ascended the tennis ladder, gradually building her ranking. She was granted citizenship in 2011. Currently ranked inside the top 50, she will represent the U.S.

Did you know?

For all his achievements, Roger Federer has never won an Olympic medal in singles. None of the singles gold or silver medalists from 2008 are defending their medals: the defending women's gold medal singles winner, Russia's Elena Dementieva, is retired; the silver medalist, Russia's Dinara Safina, is quasi-retired; the defending men's gold medal singles winner, Spain's Rafael Nadal, withdrew; the last silver winner in the men's event, Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, is retired as well. In 1988, Steffi Graf won all four major titles as well as the gold medal in the Seoul Olympics.

Dates

The tennis competitions of the 2012 Summer Olympics are scheduled to be staged at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London. Play begins July 28 and ends August 5.

 
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