02 Mar 2012

Going for gold (again)


Photo: Paul ZimmerRafael Nadal (ESP)

Four men have a chance of joining a select group of players who have won more than one gold medal when the tennis event gets under way at London 2012 on 28 July.

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Daniel Nestor and Stanislas Wawrinka are the only players (among men and women) with a chance of playing at London 2012 who have won one gold medal at a previous games.

Should any one of them double their tally, they would join the five players who have won multiple gold medals since tennis was officially reintroduced as an Olympic sport at Seoul 1988.

The current list of multiple gold medallists is one that would earn you top prize in a pub quiz: Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez won back-to-back doubles gold at Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996, Nicolas Massu surprised everyone to win singles and doubles gold at Athens 1996, and Serena Williams teamed up with sister, Venus, to win doubles gold at Sydney 2000 and Beijing 2008, with the latter also winning singles gold in Australia.

Naturally all eyes will be on Federer to see if he can win a singles gold medal – other than the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas it remains the one piece of tennis silverware that the Swiss cannot claim to have won.

Federer has made it clear that he wants to join Andre Agassi and Nadal as one of the only men in the modern era to complete a “Golden Slam” (winning all four Grand Slam titles and an Olympic singles gold medal) and the fact that he has dismissed talk of him retiring at London 2012 means he might still have two bites at the cherry.

“I did say three years ago, four even, that I will definitely play until the London Olympics,” said the 16-time Grand Slam champion. “It was more getting journalists off my back to be quite honest and I held my word, I’m still playing, I will be playing at the London Olympics but hell, I won’t be retiring at the London Olympics.

“I’ve said it many times that I’ll be playing for hopefully many more years to come. My body will tell me when to stop but I haven’t set the date in any shape or form or thought about it in any way, so I’ve thought way ahead next year already in many different ways and actually, at this point, I’m hoping to play in Rio.”

Standing in Federer’s way could well be a certain Novak Djokovic, who as the reigning Australian Open champion, is the only man who has the chance to complete a Golden Slam in its truest form (winning all four Grand Slam events and an Olympics singles gold medal in the same year).

Only Steffi Graf can lay claim to having achieved that feat, when she dominated the women’s tour in 1988, capping a remarkable year by defeating Gabriela Sabatini in the gold medal match in Seoul.

With Nadal also in the hunt for a second singles gold as well as a host of players, led by Andy Murray, snapping at the heels of the “big three”, the only certainty seems to be that this year's Olympics looks set to be a fabulous affair.

On the women’s side, world No. 1 and Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has openly admitted that completing a golden Grand Slam is “everybody’s dream to achieve, but a very difficult task.”

With Venus Williams still battling to recover from Sjogren’s Syndrome, sister Serena might be the only gold medal winner to start in the women’s draw for what could be an extremely open contest, especially if both Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova make their Olympic debuts.

There may still be the best part of five months to go before the tennis event kicks off at the All England Lawn Tennis Club but you can keep in touch with all the news, on and off court, on our Facebook and Twitter pages.