Any of several alternative formats would enliven the Olympic competition. Round-robin play using the simple Van Alen scoring system—31 points wins the match, just as 21 points wins a game in table tennis—would treat Olympic spectators, who typically aren't hard-core tennis fans, to shorter matches and the chance to see more players on a given day. The World Team Tennis format, in which matches consist of one set in each of five categories (men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles), with the winner determined by total games won, would make each point more meaningful. Mixed doubles, in particular, would underscore that tennis is that rarest of sports, one in which men and women can compete together.
At the very least the ITF should identify players' nationalities on the scoreboard, and establish some parallel team competition, as gymnastics has, for the world's dozen or so most powerful tennis nations. The aforementioned changes would exalt the team over the individual and thereby enrich the sport. Without them, this Admiral Stockdale of Olympic events will continue to raise the questions, What is it? Why is it here?
Going for the (Blue and) Gold
If athletes from UCLA had competed as a nation in Atlanta, they would have finished sixth in the gold medal count, with 10. And that's not counting the three golds won by Irish swimmer Michelle Smith, who is coached by her husband, Erik de Bruin.
Olympic delegations that underachieved in Atlanta returned home last week to some lacerating appraisals.
Erstwhile Olympic power Great Britain won only 15 medals, a showing that had the Evening Standard headlining the question, WHY ARE WE SO USELESS?
Japan won only three gold medals, two in judo. "Even the North Koreans won two gold medals," said an anonymous newspaperman. "And North Koreans don't even eat rice!"
The second-most populous nation on earth, India, won but a single medal. "The next Olympics should also have brass, tin, wood and plastic [medals] to give our players a chance to bring glory to the nation," snorted the Times of India.
Egypt's failure to win a single medal led to this observation from a columnist in Cairo's Al-Akhbar: "A lot of people suggest that we merge the sports authority with the sewer authority."
Mexico was able to win only a single medal, a bronze—"in walking," sniffed an editorial in the Mexico City Times.