Is Tennis In The Olympics?

Many sports lovers look forward to the Olympic Games every time they come around, cheering for our national teams and players in the summer and the winter. The Olympic Games have been played for over 120 years, but the participating sporting events have changed and evolved. 

For instance, skateboarding and surfing debuted in 2022, and breakdancing was approved for the 2024 competition. Some sports drop out and come back in along the way, with various factors being considered to determine what’s included and what isn’t. 

Tennis has a long history in the Olympics, but it hasn’t had an uninterrupted run around the five rings.

Is tennis in the Olympics? Tennis is played in the Summer Olympic Games and has been since 1988. The International Olympic Committee included it in the first iterations of the modern Olympic Games before the sport took a 64-year hiatus. There are currently men’s, women’s, doubles, and mixed doubles events.

History of Tennis In The Olympics

The International Olympic Committee decided to resurrect the tradition of global sports competitions. The 1896 Summer Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, and started a modern tradition that continues to this day. 

In these first games, tennis was included. There were only two events: the men’s single and the men’s doubles. In the early 1900s, the Games featured both indoor and outdoor tennis. Typically, the games are played on hard courts, with the exceptions of 1992 (clay) and 2012 (grass).

However, after a dispute between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Tennis Federation (then known as the International Lawn Tennis Federation), tennis was removed from the Olympics in 1928. 

The dispute centered on who the ITF would allow to play in the Olympics and how the term “amateur” applied to tennis players. The Olympic Games were initially supposed to feature amateur players, not professional athletes, which caused some issues in various sports throughout the years.

With the ongoing success of the Olympic Games, the popularity of tennis, and some rule changes, tennis found its way back to the playing field. After two demonstration years in 1968 and 1984, tennis officially re-entered the Olympics in 1988 and has been a staple ever since.

ATP/WTA Ratings

For a few years (2004 to 2012), players could include their performance at the Olympic Games in their ATP and WTA rating calculations. However, the ITF discontinued this practice during the 2016 Olympics.

The Future of Tennis at the Olympics

The upcoming summer games in 2024 will take place in Paris, and the famed Roland-Garros Stadium will host the tennis matches. This means that the competition will take place on a surface other than a hard court for only the third time since tennis re-entered the Olympic Games in 1988.

Clay’s unique features will undoubtedly favor certain players over others, so be on the lookout for players to slide their way to Olympic gold.

Types of Tennis in the Olympics

Currently, there are five tennis events at the Olympics:

  • Men’s singles
  • Women’s singles
  • Men’s doubles
  • Women’s doubles
  • Mixed doubles

Mixed doubles have only been featured since 2012, and only three countries have won the gold medal: Belarus (2012), the United States (2016), and the Russian Olympic Committee team (2020).

The Summer Paralympics

Wheelchair tennis has been included since 1992 in the Paralympic games and includes men’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s singles, and women’s doubles.

In 2004, an additional category was added that featured a singles and doubles event for players with quadriplegia (dubbed quad events).

A Golden Slam

There is an elusive achievement for players who win all four majors and an Olympic gold medal in the same year.

Steffi Graf won the four majors and her Olympic gold in 1988, making her the only tennis player ever to achieve such a feat. In 2021, Diede de Groot and Dylan Alcott both completed a Golden Slam at the Paralympic Games.

What Country Has the Most Tennis Olympic Medals?

Since tennis was included in the early years of the Olympics, to the most recent event, here’s a breakdown of how many medals each nation has accomplished.

NationGoldSilverBronzeTotal Medals
1. United States2161239
2. Great Britain17141243
3. France56819
4. Russia3328
5. South Africa3216
6. Spain27312
7. Germany26210
8. Switzerland2204
9. Chile2115
10. Australia1135

What Female Player Has the Most Tennis Olympic Medals?

PlayerGoldSilverBronze
1. Venus Williams410
2. Serena Williams400
3. Gigi Fernández200
4. Mary Joe Fernández200
5. Kathleen McKane Godfree122

Venus Williams has the most Olympic medals in the sport, regardless of gender. She won five medals, four gold and one silver. Kathleen McKane Godfree also has five, but her breakdown is one gold, two silver, and two bronze. 

Serena Williams has four gold medals and thus ties with her sister for the highest number of tennis gold medals, regardless of gender. Venus and Serena are also the only two female players in the Open Era to have individually won the singles event and the same-gender doubles event in one year. Venus managed it in 2000, and Serena got both golds in 2012.

Three of the Williams sisters’ gold medals were earned jointly when they competed in the women’s doubles event together in Sydney (2000), Beijing (2008), and London (2012).

What Male Player Has the Most Tennis Olympic Medals?

PlayerGoldSilverBronze
1. Reginald Doherty301
2. Andy Murray210
3. Vincent Richards210
4. Laurence Doherty201
5. Charles Winslow201
6. Rafael Nadal200
7. Nicolas Massu200
8. John Pius Boland200
9. Charles Dixon112
10. Fernando Gonzales111
Source

Andy Murray won two singles gold medals and is the only player to have retained an Olympic title in subsequent Olympic games. After winning gold in 2012 and 2016, Andy didn’t let his achievement overshadow women’s tennis prowess at the Olympic Games. 

When congratulated by a reporter after his second gold, he was quick to correct the reporter’s statement. The BBC representative said he was the first “person” to win two Olympic gold medals, but Andy Murray told him, “Venus and Serena have about four each.”

In 2004, Nicolas Massu won the singles event and the same-gender double event in the same year. He became only the second person ever to do so after Venus’ achievement in 2000, and he remains one of three people to do so, along with the Williams sisters.

Due to the popularity of tennis and its global presence, it’s unlikely that tennis will fall off of the Olympic program anytime soon. This is especially true because some fans see getting an Olympic gold as a more significant achievement than winning one of the four tennis Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open). 

Keeping fans engaged in sports means that the governing bodies of the sport need to be in tune with what fans want to see. Every four years, tennis fans want to see players from their country get that coveted gold medal placed around their necks.

Fred Simonsson

I'm Fred, the guy behind TennisPredict. Apart from writing here, I play tennis on a semi-professional level and coach upcoming talents.

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