As we enter 2021, many players have set their sights firmly on the Olympic Games in Tokyo, postponed for 12 months due to the pandemic from last year and now due to be held from 24 July to 1 August.
It was a shock that they [the games] were not held last year. Hopefully they continue, because if not, I don’t know what will happen with the Olympic cycle, at some point they would have to be suspended. Garbiñe Muguruza
Spain’s former World No 1 Garbiñe Muguruza has revealed that one of her career goals is to team up with the Rafael Nadal at the Olympic Tennis Event, which will be held at the Ariake Coliseum, home of the Pan Pacific Open.
“The luck of the tennis players is that we have many tournaments and we do not have to prepare specifically for the Games,” Muguruza told Diario AS recently. “For us, all the time, it is like an Olympiad, with Grand Slams and major tournaments.
“It was a shock that they [the games] were not held last year. Hopefully they continue, because if not, I don’t know what will happen with the Olympic cycle, at some point they would have to be suspended.”
Muguruza says her ultimate dream is to play mixed doubles with Nadal, as well as winning all four of the Grand Slam tournaments.
She has already won Wimbledon and the French Open.
“Winning all four Grand Slams, an Olympic medal, and playing mixed doubles with Nadal at the Games,” she says are her goals. “The most special thing is sharing the successes.”
Nadal were set to play alongside Muguruza at the 2016 Games in Rio, but he withdrew from the draw as a precaution because he was also playing in the singles and doubles draws.
Muguruza’s best Olympic performance to date is in the doubles in which she reached the quarter-finals in Rio together with Carla Suarez Navarro.
The 27-year-old also revealed that she may team up with Suarez Navarro again in Tokyo, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer, after the 32-year-old announced recently that she plans to return to action in the near future following successful treatment.
Suarez Navarro confirmed in September that she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma after retiring from the tour.
The two have won three WTA doubles titles together between 2014-2015.
“I found out before the US Open and it was a shock because you never expect that someone so close, and also a young and successful athlete is going to happen something like this,” Muguruza recounted.
“I talked to her a lot and she told me what to do and what not to do.
“Then in Barcelona she came to see me train and we saw each other several times. I found her very well, very lively and with a lot of energy. I didn’t know what to expect and it was an adrenaline rush for me.”
Muguruza is currently ranked 15th in the world and has won 23 out of 30 matches played over the curtailed 2020 season, with her best result coming at the Australian Open where she reached the final before losing to Sofia Kenin.
Another player hoping to find success in Olympic mixed doubles is Belinda Bencic, who is hoping to team up again with Roger Federer.
In early December she tweeted: “I’m ready, it’s just up to Roger now.”
The Olympic Games is ‘one of her big goals’ and Bencic is dreaming of competing in both the singles and mixed doubles.
While the 23-year-old is hoping to make her Olympic debut at Tokyo, 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer is eyeing a fourth appearance at the Games.
Federer had made the Olympics this coming summer a priority in terms of his scheduling, but there i continued speculation over his fitness after two knee surgeries have kept him off the tour since last January and his planned return to the Australian Open cancelled.
He will also be approaching his 40th birthday when the games are due to begin but his ambition runs high, having won a doubles gold medal alongside fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in 2008 and is still waiting to get his hands on an Olympic singles gold.
He reached the singles final at London 2012, but was hammered 6-2 6-1 6-4 by an inspired Andy Murray, but did not compete at Rio 2016, where Murray won again.
Federer & Bencic are an experienced pair, having won back-to-back Hopman Cup titles together, in 2018 and 2019.
“Nothing has been decided yet, everything is still very far away for me, but in addition to the Grand Slam tournaments, the Olympic Games remains one of my big goals – in singles and maybe also in mixed,” Bencic told Swiss publication Aargauer Zeitung recently.
“If we stay healthy, I would like to compete with Roger.”
Asked if the hype around her would be a little easier if Federer was to compete, she replied: “That would be convenient for me.
“Roger is so easy-going, always has everything under control, something I saw first-hand at the Hopman Cup. He always manages to greet everyone.
“I’m overwhelmed when two people want something from me at the same time. But Roger must have learned to deal with it first. At 23 he probably couldn’t do that. I couldn’t live like him.”
Naomi Osaka often speaks of her pride at the prospect of representing Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, but has admitted to being fearful should she team up with Kei Nishikori in the mixed event there.
“The thing is anyone that knows my doubles track record knows that I’m down,” Osaka said at the US Open in 2019. “I would play. I would definitely play with him.
“I just, I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life.”
She is fully aware of the massive responsibility such a ‘Dream Team’ would carry.
“Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo,” Osaka said.
“That would be the biggest – like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Definitely I think that would be so historic in a way. And I would love to do it. But I need to practice my doubles.”
The 22-year-old, however, has become a hot commodity since then and, ahead of the postponed Games, she is the most highly paid female athlete in the world who is now way more comfortable in her own skin.
Dominic Thiem, who used to be indifferent about the Olympics, now says he will jump at the chance if the opportunity presents itself to play in Tokyo.
“I really hope that the Olympic Games are going to happen in Tokyo, of course on the safe circumstances, that’s always important, but it would be great for everybody if they gonna happen, especially in Tokyo, which is a great city, actually, one of my favourite cities,” he said.
In 2015 he declared: “I’m not a big fan of the Olympic Games. The ATP calendar is a bit complex due to the Olympic event,” he told TennisNet. “It’s not the main priority for me, but maybe my mentality will change when I’m older.
“I prefer playing ATP tournaments and Davis Cup competition rather than Olympic Games. The Olympics are very important only if you gain a medal and that’s a very difficult achievement.”
The US Open champion had planned to skip the Olympics after opting to play in his home tournament, the Austrian Open in Kitzbühel, instead.
The ATP 250 event was scheduled to clash with the Olympics, before it was delayed until September and the Olympics pushed back to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Thiem claims this has worked in his favour as he now plans to represent his country in the Japanese capital.
“I got lucky – this year I wouldn’t have been able to play because of Kitzbühel,” he said. “To be honest, I changed my mind.
“It would be a dream to participate in the Olympics.
“I would love to play there next year.”
The Olympic Tennis Event will feature 172 players in five events, namely the singles and doubles for both men and women and the return of mixed doubles for the third consecutive time.