Only one of the top 11 seeded men's players survived to reach the quarterfinals in the 1992 Olympics, so anything is possible in Atlanta. The women also had a surprise in Barcelona, when Jennifer Capriati won the gold medal by defeating Steffi Graf in the final.
At a Glance
Number of athletes: 96 men, 96 women.
Changes since Barcelona: Qualifications based solely on computer rankings: format changed from best-of-five sets in all matches to best-of-five in men's singles and doubles finals.
Qualifications: Based on world ranking.
Format: Bracket-single-elimination tournament.
Dates of competition: July 23 through Aug. 3.
The venue: Stone Mountain Tennis Complex.
What We Know
Olympic tennis, no matter what sort of indirect answer you get to the question, is not a favorite of the players. The public and the Olympic movement want everybody to see it as a fifth Grand Slam event every four years. But it comes in the middle of an incredible endurance test for the players, who spend May playing on the slow red clay of the French Open, then change to the fast grass and the great pressures of Wimbledon in late June and early July. Immediately after that, in the minds of most on the men's and women's tours, comes the need to play in as many hot summer hard-court events as possible, in preparation for the U.S. Open in late August and early September. The Olympics, a two-week interruption of their routine in the ultimate heat of Atlanta and the ultimate pressure cooker of this international event, are treated as little more than a necessary evil by many players.
What We Don't Know
The expectations of the United States teams are hard to figure. Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and MaliVai Washington should give the host country a real shot at a singles champion. Sampras is the No. 1 player in the world, Agassi is only a missed backhand or two behind Sampras in ability when he wants to be and Washington was a surprise Wimbledon finalist. Yet Sampras got taken out early on the slow clay in Barcelona and talks more about going to see the Dream Team play basketball in Atlanta than about winning a gold medal. Agassi will be in his first Olympics, and his performance so far this year has been spotty. And Washington, despite his Wimbledon heroics, may be asked to concentrate more on the doubles, teaming there with Richey Reneberg.
On the women's side, things are even less encouraging. Monica Seles should be a finalist, opposite Steffi Graf, but Seles has been struggling with a bad serving shoulder and other small injuries and is no longer as feared as she was before the stabbing incident that cost her two years of competition. And the other two Americans playing singles, Chanda Rubin and Lindsay Davenport, also are injured and nowhere near the top of their games. Women's doubles may be the best U.S. hope with Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez back to defend the title they won in Barcelona by beating Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez of Spain.
Someone You Should Know
In 1988, Steffi Graf did what no other person, male or female, may ever be able to match. She won what became known as the Golden Slam, by adding to her Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles the Olympic crown in Seoul. She was 19 years old then. Now, having just won the French and Wimbledon titles, she is going strong toward a second gold medal at 27. She actually has three, having won the demonstration sport for players 21 and under in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In Barcelona in 1992, she won a silver medal, losing in the final to 16-year-old American Jennifer Capriati. Capriati did not qualify to play for the U.S. team and defend her medal.
Something You Should Know
Tennis was an Olympic sport right from the start, at Athens in 1896. It played on through the 1924 Games at Paris, where the conditions were so bad that the International Tennis Federation, given no say in where or how the sport was run, pulled out. Tennis eased back in slowly, holding exhibition matches in Mexico City and Guadalajara in 1968 and then making it a demonstration sport in Los Angeles in 1984.
Now, Olympic tennis is established and a far cry from the mess that it was in the 1904 Games in St. Louis, when arguments between organizers in St. Louis and Chicago, which had originally been awarded the Games by the International Olympic Committee, served to force the sport to share these two venues and spread the tournament out from May until November.
Net: 30 inches at center
Area of play
Passing shot: Hit past opponent who is advancing or standing at net.
Drop shot: Drops just over the net with very little bounce.
Approach shot: Sets up opportunities for decisive volleying.
Lob: Played to send ball high over opponent's head
Foot fault: Occurs when either foot touches the baseline before ball is struck.
Player gets two attempts to serve ball into service court.
Sweet spot: Area most likely to produce the perfect shot.
Racket: Made of composite material such as Fiberglas, graphite, Kevlar and ceramic.
Weight: 12-14 1/4 ounces
Strings: Made of nylon, natural gut or both
Ball: Two rubber half-spheres fused and covered with Dacron and wool.
Diameter: 2 1/2 inches.
Weight: 2 ounces.
Server and Volley: For powerful players. Rush net after serve to set up a winning volley.
Best defense: Passing shots, lobs.
Baseline Play: For players with strong, reliable ground-strokes. Serve and stay back at baseline, attempting to tire opponent.
Best defense: Break baseliner's rhythm by hitting sharp angles, corners and short balls to draw to net and lob.
Approach Play: For all players. When opponent's shot lands short, attack with deep ground-stroke, then rush net and get set to volley.
Best defense: Keep groundstrokes deep, uses passing shots, lobs.
Mystery shrouds the rationale behind tennis' scoring system, which developed centuries ago. Love, which signifies no score, may be an outgrowth of the French word "L'oeuf," meaning egg. The Scots also have a word "luff," which means zero.
Points: Tied at 40
Points: Server leads
Points: Receiver leads
Source: Associated Press