Years: 1896 - 2012
In 1896, Athens staged the first Modern Olympiad, fulfilling the dream of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee in 1894. He believed that the Modern Olympic Games would provide a platform for friendly competition in which all difference of status, religion, politics and race would be forgotten.
Over a century later, the values held by de Coubertin are still very much in evidence with the Games, providing a unique opportunity for tennis players to represent their country among athletes from other sports.
It is often forgotten that tennis was one of the original nine Olympic sports at Athens 1896. Ireland’s John Boland defeated Dionysios Kasdaglis to become the first Olympic tennis champion, while four years later, in Paris, Great Britain's Charlotte Cooper defeated Helene Prevost to become the first woman ever to win an Olympic medal.
The sport continued to be staged at the Games until 1924, with Laurie Doherty, Suzanne Lenglen and Helen Wills among the more notable winners, but tennis withdrew from the Olympics after 1924. After a one-off demonstration/exhibition event at Mexico City 1968, it returned as a 21-and-under demonstration event at Los Angeles 1984, and this time it was here to stay.
The comeback followed a determined campaign by then ITF President Philippe Chatrier, ITF General Secretary David Gray and ITF Vice President Pablo Llorens, with great support from IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. The success of the event was overwhelming and the IOC decided to reintroduce tennis as a full medal sport at Seoul 1988.
Since its return the tennis event has gone from strength to strength. At London 2012, played on the grass courts of Wimbledon, the competition attracted record participation by the top players and drew capacity crowds for every session.
Many of the sport’s biggest names have won medals at the Games, including Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, and Venus and Serena Williams.
Wheelchair Tennis was introduced to the Paralympic Games at Seoul 1988 as a demonstration event and achieved full medal status at Barcelona 1992. It remains one of the highest profile events in the Paralympic Games and, in 2008, all the top players competed.
- Continue reading... first chapter in the History section: Roots