Paris | Ramping up for Olympic Tennis 

The official list of entries for the 2024 Olympic Tennis Event in Paris will be made available by the ITF on 4 July, but, with each National Olympic Committee able to qualify up to 12 athletes, 6 per gender, represented by up to 4 players (the best ranked within their country) in each of the singles draws, 2 entries in each of the doubles draws, and only 1 entry in mixed doubles, player names are gradually being released.

In Tokyo, I remember how stressful it was. This year I'm trying to really keep my expectations low, but really work hard to be prepared for the Olympics. I'll try to do everything step by step, treat this tournament as any other one, even though these are the Olympics, not to put too much pressure on my shoulders. Iga Swiatek

The rankings of 10 June 2024 that followed the conclusion of Roland Garros determine the majority of players who will qualify directly, and, on the women’s side, we already know that the 64-player field will be led by World No 1 Iga Swiatek.

Several top players, though, have decided to opt out, including Aryna Sabalenka, the World No 2, Ons Jabeur, ranked 10, and 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu, who was offered a wild-card.

Coco Gauff, the World No 3 and the reigning US Open champion, will lead compatriots Jessica Pegula, Danielle Collins and Madison Keys in America’s quest for a gold medal, while former World No 1s Naomi Osaka and Caroline Wozniacki also are set to return to Roland Garros to play the Olympics, which is is scheduled to begin on 27 July.

The Japanese Tennis Federation confirmed Osaka’s selection last week, for what will be her second Olympic appearance. The 4-time Grand Slam champion was selected by Japan to light the Olympic flame at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Growing up watching the Olympics on TV, I felt that it was a celebration of sport,” Osaka said. “I thought it brought everyone together, and just to be able to be an athlete there, and interact with other athletes, is one of the funnest things that I’ve ever done.

“And if I do play, I have high ambitions of myself and I hope that I can do really well and get a medal,” she added.

Her most notable achievement so far was reaching the quarter-finals in Qatar, and she concluded her clay season by providing eventual champion Swiatek with her toughest challenge at the French Open.

33-year old Wozniacki is set to play her 4th Olympics, joining Clara Tauson in the Danish line-up.

“One of the reasons I came back was to play at the Olympics,” Wozniacki said. “I’m very proud of coming back. I have nothing to prove, I love what I do.”

Ranked No 117 at the entry deadline, Wozniacki would have been eligible for one of the 2 spots reserved for former Grand Slam champions.

Raducanu could have availed herself of that so-called ‘wild-card’ spot, but has opted to skip the Olympics.

Ranked 209 at the entry cut-off, Raducanu confirmed her decision to decline her entry during her run to the semi-finals of the Rothesay Open last week.

“I’m very single-minded, and I do things my own way, and in my own time, whenever I want,” Raducanu told reporters. “So, not in a diva way, just prioritising my body and my health because I know, if I’m fit, I know if I’m giving my 100 percent, I know great things are happening and coming.

“I just don’t think there’s any need to put additional stress on my body or any risk, especially with my history.”

Raducanu also skipped Roland Garros to maximise her preparation for the grass-court season.

Iain Bates, Head of GB’s Olympic tennis team, said: “I have had various conversations with Emma over the last couple of weeks, and a slightly longer period, where it’s very clear how much being part of a British team at an Olympics would mean to her.

“I think she feels this isn’t going to be the right timing for her for this summer. She’s hopefully got many Olympics ahead of her. I’m very comfortable with the decision that she’s made.”

Great Britain will have only one player in the women’s singles draw, with that honour going to British No 1 Katie Boulter.

Boulter, ranked 30, will also feature in the doubles alongside Heather Watson, with Harriet Dart & Maia Lumsden also set to represent Team GB in Paris.


Emma Raducanu told the media on Sunday in Nottingham that she was declining a wild-card entry to the Olympics

© Nathan Stirk/Getty Images for LTA

Jabeur also announced she would skip the Olympics for precautionary measures against injury.

“After consulting with my medical team regarding attending the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface, and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardise the rest of my season,” Jabeur posted on social media on Monday. “Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“I have always loved representing my country in any competition. However, I must listen to my body and follow my medical team’s advice.”

Jabeur, who is a 3-time Olympian, in 2012, 2016 and 2021, is in the middle of her grass-court swing as she eyes a maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, where she has finished as the runner-up in the last 2 years.

On Monday, Sabalenka, who is the reigning Australian Open champion, told reporters at the ecotrans Ladies Open in Berlin that she has decided to take care of herself, and prepare for the hard-court summer.

“Especially with all the struggles I’ve been struggling with the last months, I feel I have to take care of my health,” Sabalenka said at media day. “It’s too much for the scheduling, and I made the decision to take care of my health.”

For the first time since Barcelona in 1992, the Olympic tennis event will be held on clay, which requires players to transition from grass at Wimbledon to the clay at Roland Garros for the Olympics, and then onto hard courts for the North American swing leading into the US Open.

Also, the final day of the Olympic Games tennis competition overlaps with the start of the US Open season, which features back-to-back WTA 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati, followed by the final Grand Slam of the year in New York, where Sabalenka was a finalist last year.

“I prefer to have a little rest to make sure, physically and health-wise, I’m ready for the hard courts,” Sabalenka continued, “And I’ll have a good preparation before going to the hard court season. I feel that this is safer and better for my body.”

Sabalenka is playing her first tournament since Roland Garros, where she struggled with a stomach illness during her quarter-final loss to Mirra Andreeva.

“It was the worst experience I had in my life on court,” Sabalenka admitted. “I’ve played while being ill, I’ve played with injuries, but when you have a stomach bug, and you don’t have any energy to play, and you’re in the quarter-final of a Grand Slam, that was really terrible experience. But it is how it is.

“I think my body was just asking for some rest. I managed to find a couple of days to chill and recover after the tough months.”

Athletes from Russia and Belarus who qualify for the Games can only compete as neutrals, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.


World No 2 Coco Gauff leads a strong American squad of Jessica Pegula, Danielle Collins and Madison Keys at the Paris Olympics

© Inaki Esnaola/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Swiatek considers the Olympics to be her most important tournament because her father competed in the 1988 Seoul Games, representing Poland in the men’s Quadruple Sculls rowing event and  finishing 7th.

“Because of that, I know that the Olympics are the most important event probably in sports overall,” Swiatek said at the French Open’s draw ceremony. “Winning any medal would be a dream come true.

“In Tokyo, I remember how stressful it was. This year I’m trying to really keep my expectations low, but really work hard to be prepared for the Olympics,” added the 23-year old, who lost to Spain’s Paula Badosa in the 2nd-round in Tokyo. “I’ll try to do everything step by step, treat this tournament as any other one, even though these are the Olympics, not to put too much pressure on my shoulders.”

Having lifted the French Open trophy for the third time in a row, her 4th overall, Swiatek, who also secured back-to-back titles on clay in Madrid and Rome this year, is the clear favourite to win Gold on her beloved Roland Garros court.


Roland Garros is being transformed into an Olympic venue for Paris 2024

© Bertrand Guay/AFP via Getty Images

As the sun set on the French Open, a new race got underway as Roland Garros transforms its the iconic red clay courts into a dazzling Olympic venue in a matter of weeks.

Chosen back in 2016 to be one of the 41 sites for the Paris 2024 Olympics, Roland Garros must comply with the meticulous standards set by the International Olympic Committee and Paris 2024 organisers in just 6 weeks.

The transition requires a ‘clean venue’, where all distinctive Roland Garros marks are hidden and replaced by the Olympic rings and the host city’s logo, and, by 20 July, when players start training, it will be awash in the vibrant colours of the Olympic Games.

First, the tournament team had to dismantle food stands, entertainment corners and anything branded with Roland Garros that can be removed, with the Olympic make-over ramping up until mid-July, when a comprehensive security check will pave the way for the arrival of the athletes.

While the 6-week timeline is more generous than the 3 weeks allotted for the transformation of Wimbledon for the London 2012 Games, the challenge remains immense.

Inside the courts, over 250 items need replacing, from the umpires’ chairs to the LED advertisements, which will be swapped out for tarpaulins sporting the Olympics look.

Despite the extensive make-over, some familiar elements will remain, including the statue of 14-times champion Rafael Nadal.

Even as Court Philippe-Chatrier Court adopts its Olympic colours, its distinctive moucharaby wall bearing the name of Roland Garros will remain visible, and the iconic ‘RG’ logo will also stay on the thousands of seats across the courts.

After the tennis event, the Court Philippe-Chatrier will undergo yet another transformation to host the Olympic boxing finals over 5 evenings, marking the end of an extraordinary summer for this storied venue.

The Paris Olympics will begin on 26 July with the Opening Ceremonies, and conclude on 11 August.

The tennis event will be played during the first week of the Olympics, starting Saturday, 27 July to Sunday, 4 August, with the medal rounds played from Friday, 2 August.

Tennis was one of the 9 original Olympic sports at the first modern Olympic Games at Athens 1896 and continued until 1924. It returned as a full medal sport at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.


Olympic champion Belinda Bencic will not be defending her Gold Medal as she is on maternity leave

© Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images
Reigning Olympic medalists (Women)
Singles
  • Gold: Belinda Bencic (SUI)
  • Silver: Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)
  • Bronze: Elina Svitolina (UKR)
Doubles
  • Gold: Barbora Krejcikova & Katerina Siniakova (CZE)
  • Silver: Belinda Bencic & Viktorija Golubic (SUI)
  • Bronze: Laura Pigossi & Luisa Stefani (BRA)
Mixed doubles
  • Gold: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova & Andrey Rublev
  • Silver: Elena Vesnina & Aslan Karatsev
  • Bronze: Ashleigh Barty & John Peers (AUS)

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