Players’ Olympic Dreams Morph to Nightmares
Many have attempted to make the argument that tennis has no place in the Olympics. Tell that to the players. For months, players have been doing their best to fulfill the ITF requirements for London. A ranking in the top 56 for singles is sufficient, coupled with availability in two Fed Cup or Davis Cup ties in the Olympic cycle. However, despite fulfilling ITF requirements, many players are being denied the chance at their Olympic dream by their national Olympic committees.
New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic was the first player embroiled in Olympic controversy. Due to a late withdrawal from a zonal tie against in 2011, New Zealand’s Fed Cup team was banned from competing in 2012 by the ITF. ITF rules require players to make themselves available for Fed Cup country in two of the four years of the Olympic cycle, including one of the past two years. Erakovic, who competed in three zonal ties in 2010 and four in 2009, would not fulfill the requirements of Fed Cup eligibility because of the ban. The New Zealand Tennis Federation is looking to appeal, but the ITF isn’t Erakovic’s only hurdle. The New Zealand Olympic Committee requires all competitors to “demonstrate an ability of finishing in the top 16 and be capable of going on to finish in the top eight.”
Sofia Arvidsson, No. 48 in the rankings and the top-ranked Swede, is ranked comfortably inside the Olympic cutoff. She has played 15 zonal and group Fed Cup ties for her country since 2009. She will not be going to London. Sweden’s Olympic Committee insists that athletes in all sports should only be selected if they are “capable of a top-8 finish.” She took to Twitter on Tuesday to vent her frustration and disappointment.
Germany requires its players to be ranked within the top 24, or reach the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam or semifinals at a WTA Premier Mandatory/Premier 5 or ATP Masters 1000. Julia Goerges, ranked No. 25 at the cut-off, will miss the cut on the ladies’ side, and Florian Mayer, ranked #29 and Philipp Kohlschreiber, who defeated Rafael Nadal in straight sets in the quarterfinals in Halle on Friday, will be excluded from the men’s draw. Mona Barthel, ranked No. 32, will be excluded due to the “four per country” rule.
The list goes on. David Goffin, the lucky loser who stormed through the draw at Roland Garros before giving Roger Federer all he could handle in a four-set fourth round match, has only taken part in one Davis Cup tie. He may still sneak in, as Belgium insists its players have reached at least the fourth round of a Grand Slam or the quarter-finals of a Masters 1000. Tamira Paszek, who reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2011, only participated in one Fed Cup tie in the past two years due to injury. She will need exemption from the ITF to compete. Ksenia Pervak, currently ranked #41, who switched nationalities from Russia to Kazakhstan will also require exemption from the ITF, which is not likely.
The Indian doubles pairing of Rohan Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi are also in a fierce fight with the All India Tennis Association (AITA). Bopanna parted ways with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, with whom he reached the US Open final, to partner with Bhupathi this season with eyes set on London. However, Leander Paes, currently ranked in the top 10 in doubles, receives direct entry and needs a partner. Paes and Bhupathi have had a historically up and down relationship, and allegedly haven’t spoken since November. Bhupathi and Bopanna released a joint statement, and Bhupathi has expressed if he is selected to play with Paes, he will not compete.
The final team announcements will be made on June 28th.