Paris | Eying the Olympics with 3 months to go…

Over the weekend, as players fulfilled Billie Jean King Cup duty, former World No 1 Naomi Osaka expressed her desire to play in the upcoming Paris Olympics, but she may have to go through an appeals process to secure a place at the Games because she has not met the requirement of making 2 mandatory appearances for Japan in the ITF’s women’s team competition during the current Olympic cycle.

I know there's gonna be a lot of pressure on me because it's clay, it's Roland Garros. But honestly, I was in Tokyo. I've been through all this, you know, Olympic vibe, even though it was in COVID times, you could feel it. And I just hope that I'm going to do a better job at managing it. Iga Swiatek

Osaka, who lit the cauldron for Tokyo 2020, took 15 months away from the sport during which time she had a baby, and only returned last year, and last played BJK Cup for Japan in the last cycle, until this weekend.

“Growing up watching the Olympics on TV, I thought it was a celebration of sport,” she said after Japan got past Kazakhstan in Tokyo to qualify for the BJK Cup Finals in November. “I thought it brought everyone together, and just being an athlete there, and interacting with other athletes, is one of the funniest things that I’ve ever done.”

The 26-year-old has risen from No 831 in the world to 193 while making her come-back, and hopes ‘that I can play and get a medal’.

Iga Swiatek of Team Poland showed her frustration during her early loss to Paula Badosa in the 2nd- Round of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Current World No 1 Iga Swiatek is also looking forward to the Olympics, having stated this is a priority for her this season, but she is expecting to face a lot of pressure as the Tennis Event is being held at Roland Garros, the venue where she has found most success after winning the French Open 3 times there.

“I know there’s gonna be a lot of pressure on me because it’s clay, it’s Roland Garros,” she said during the hard court swing in America, eying the lead-up to her Roland Garros defence at the end of May. “But honestly, I was in Tokyo. I’ve been through all this, you know, Olympic vibe, even though it was in COVID times, you could feel it.

“And I just hope that I’m going to do a better job at managing it. But, you know, in terms of the performance, I think there’s no sense to talk about it because it’s a long time until the Olympics.”

Alexander Zverev of Team Germany won the Gold Medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

© Julian Finney/Getty Images

Three months may be a long time in tennis terms, but Monday 10 June, which is the day after Roland Garros, is an important milestone as the rankings published that week will determine direct acceptances into the Paris 2024 Olympic Tennis Event.

As well as a player’s ranking, there are a further set of criteria that must be met to make it to the Games, including:

  • They have to be in good standing with their National Association and the International Tennis Federation.
  • They must also have fulfilled the minimum participation requirement in the ITF Davis Cup or ITF Billie Jean King Cup Competitions during the Olympic Cycle, by being part of the final nominated Davis Cup or Billie Jean King Cup team, and present at the Tie/Event, on a minimum of two (2) occasions during the Olympic Cycle, provided that one of those occasions is in either 2023 or 2024.
  • They have to be aged 14 or over for men, and 15 or over for women

If an athlete does not meet these criteria, though, they can apply for an exemption to the ITF Olympic Committee.

Each nation may nominate a maximum of 12 players – 6 for the men’s draws, 6 for the women’s draws.

The singles events at the Olympic Games will both feature 64 players in the 1st-round, with a maximum of 4 athletes per country.

For a nation like USA, who currently have 8 women and 7 men ranked in the world’s Top 60, this means they will have players with high rankings that cannot qualify for the Games.

There are 56 direct acceptances to the singles draw, which means that the 56 highest-ranked ATP and WTA players, keeping in mind the maximum of 4 per nation in each draw, will be offered a place providing they are eligible.

Then there are 6 Final Qualification Places, one for the Host Country, France, and one Universality Place.

There are two types of Final Qualification Place:

1. Continental

Athletes can qualify for the Olympic Tennis Event based on their performance at the recent Pan American Games, the Asian Games and the African Games.

Two men’s and women’s singles places are available from the Pan American Games, and 1 per singles event from the Asian and African Games.

Any athlete qualifying on a Continental Qualification place needs to be ranked in the ATP or WTA Top 400 on 10 June to qualify, and they must also be part of the quota of 4 athletes per country.

If an athlete qualifies by both continental qualification and direct acceptance, the former will apply.

China’s Zheng Qinwen, is a prime example here, with the 2023 Asian Games winner and current Top 10 star likely to qualify on both counts.

2. Gold medallist/Grand Slam champion

Two places are available in each singles draw for any athlete who has previously won an Olympic gold medal in singles or a Grand Slam singles title that has not qualified by direct acceptance, provided they are ranked in the Top 400 and don’t push their NOC quota over the 4-athlete threshold.

If more than 2 athletes meet these criteria, the place will be offered to the player(s) with the highest number of titles (with a gold medal representing one title). If two players have the same number of titles, the place will be given to the higher-ranked player on 10 June.

The Doubles is different, though, with the men’s and women’s doubles draws at Paris 2024 featuring 32 teams, each team being a pair of athletes from the same nation. There is a maximum of 2 teams per nation, and entry is based on combined singles or doubles rankings.

There are 31 direct acceptance places and one host country place, which is only used if a team from the host country does not obtain a direct acceptance quota place.

Mixed doubles teams will be selected only from players that have been accepted for the singles and/or doubles events, and are therefore already on site.

The highest-ranked nominated team from the host country will qualify directly, while the remaining 15 spots in the draw will be made up by teams from 15 different nations. Direct acceptance places will be allocated to the highest-ranked teams based on the combined ranking of each pair.

After the ATP and WTA rankings are updated following Roland Garros, the ITF will write to all relevant National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and/or National Associations by Wednesday 12 June to confirm which athletes have qualified based on the criteria outlined above.

The NOCs and National Associations have until Wednesday 19 June to confirm whether their qualified athletes will be taking part in the Olympic Games. This is also the date by which nominations need to be submitted for the men’s and women’s doubles events.

If a player or an NOC/National Association opts not to accept a place, then the ITF will reallocate their spot. All slots must be allocated by Monday 8 July.

The deadline by which all entries need to be submitted to Paris 2024 is 8 July, but, all being well, the final entry list should be announced in the week of 1 July.

Belinda Bencic became an Olympic champion at Tokyo 2020

© Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, the ITF has lifted the ban on Russians and Belarusians from the Games, but its rules prevent them from qualifying because of the requirement that they cannot meet due to suspensions in recent years.

“The International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee will allow qualified and eligible athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games as Individual Neutral Athletes (‘INA’) and at the Paralympic Games as Neutral Paralympic Athletes (‘NPA’),” the ITF said in a statement.

“The ITF’s decision is in line with that of the majority of International Federations (IFs) for the individual sports and that will be involved in the Paris 2024 Games this summer. The ITF’s position is also in line with the existing international tennis policy adopted in March 2022.

“Neutral athletes must meet the selection and eligibility requirements set out in the current ITF rules,” the statement continued.

This effectively makes participation by Russian and Belarusian players impossible, since they have been banned from competing in the Davis Cup or Billie Jean King Cup competitions during the Olympic cycle, which runs from Monday, 10 August 2020, until 24 June, 2024.

While the door has been opened, an almost insurmountable obstacle has been placed in front of them, although there is a slim chance that top players will be allowed to play in exceptional circumstances.

Roland-Garros will host the Olympic Tennis Event in Paris, which starts on 27 July

© Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

In another recent announcement, the ITF has cancelled the 2024 Hopman Cup because of its proximity to the Paris Olympics, and the mixed team competition will return in 2025.

The Hopman Cup was due to take place again in Nice, France, after its successful return last year, when Croatia beat Switzerland in the final.

“With both the Hopman Cup and Olympic Games due to take place in France this year, hitting pause on the Hopman Cup until 2025 is a sensible decision,” ITF President David Haggerty said. “The players who had committed to this year’s event have been informed, and we look forward to seeing them in the Côte d’Azur next year.”

The Hopman Cup was held in Australia ahead of the Australian Open in Perth from 1989 until 2019, and, after a 3-year hiatus, it resumed in France last year.

The Olympic tennis event begins on 27 July, and will be covered live on BBC television and the BBC Sport website and app.



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