Years: 1968 - 1988
One wonders how today's professional players would have reacted to the difficulties encountered by their predecessors. Such was the indignation of the tennis authorities at the treatment of their sport, not just on this occasion but for several years, that the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) - the 'Lawn' was dropped from the title in 1977 - put forward several proposals for change to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The main suggestions were that: 1) the ILTF be granted at least one representative on the IOC; 2) the ILTF be allowed to co-operate in the technical and material organisation of tennis at the Games; 3) the IOC drop its demand for Wimbledon not to be held in any Olympic year. When the IOC refused to recognise any of the requests, the ILTF had little option but to withdraw tennis from Olympic competition.
Yet deep down the spirit evoked by the Olympic flame was never wholly extinguished. In 1968 – ironically the year in which tennis faced up to the facts of commercial life by accepting the concept of 'open' rather than strictly amateur events – tennis was included in the Olympic Games in Mexico, although only as a exhibition/demonstration sport.
Tennis staged a 21 & under demonstration event at Los Angeles 1984, although by then the long, determined campaign to have tennis welcomed back as a full medal sport was well into its stride.
The champion of the cause was David Gray, then General Secretary of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), who sadly died before all his work had come to fruition. His belief in the merits of tennis returning to the Olympic fold was unshakeable, and he had equally enthusiastic and determined support in this belief from the ITF President, Philippe Chatrier of France, and the Vice President, Pablo Llorens of Spain.
The Olympic Tennis Event in Los Angeles attracted capacity 6,000 crowds each day. Its success, as well as the growing awareness both within and beyond the IOC that Olympic membership assists with the grass roots development of any sport, made the decision to readmit tennis into the Olympics seem appropriate. It was ultimately decided that the world's finest tennis players should once again be allowed to compete for gold medals, along with their leading counterparts in other sports at this greatest of all sports gatherings.
The respective singles winners in 1984, Stefan Edberg and Steffi Graf, led the way again as top seeds in Seoul. Both were also the Wimbledon champions at the time. Graf went on to complete what has become known as her "Golden Slam" (she had already won all four Grand Slam tournaments that year), beating Gabriela Sabatini 63 63 in the Olympic final. However, Edberg lost a classic, marathon semifinal in the men's singles against Miloslav Mecir, who went on to beat Tim Mayotte 36 62 64 62 for the gold medal.
- Continue reading... fourth chapter in the History section: Tennis Secure