Tennis returned to Olympics in the 1988 Seoul Olympics after a gap of 64 years as it was left out after the 1924 Paris Olympics. Miloslav Mecir won the Gold Medal in singles and Steffi Graf grabbed the women’s singles title in Seoul.
There have been a number of huge upsets in the sport of tennis at the Olympic Games since then. If we talk of the men’s event, just the 1996 champion Andre Agassi and 2008 winner Rafael Nadal were pre-tournament favourites, who went to capture the Gold Medal.
Many top players failed to win the Olympics title despite having an illustrious career including Pete Sampras, Stefen Edberg, Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Michael Stich and many others.
1988 – Chris Evert
USA’s Chris Evert was one of the most successful players in the history of the sport. The American won a total of 18 Grand Slam singles titles in her career.
Evert appeared in only one Olympic Games and it was the tennis’ comeback year in 1988. The American star was the second seed but she was stunned by Italy’s wild card entrant Sandra Cecchini in straight sets 2-6, 2-6 in the second round.
1992 – Stefan Edberg
Stefen Edberg was Sweden entered the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games as the second seed but the former world number one was beaten badly by Russian wild card player Andrei Chesnokov in straight sets 0-6, 4-6, 4-6 in the first round.
1992 – Jim Courier
USA’s Jim Courier was the top seed in the men’s singles event in 1992. The American was the world’s best player at that time but he was surprised by his unseeded opponent Marc Rosset of Switzerland in the third round. Rosset went on the grab Gold Medal.
1992 – Pete Sampras
During his only appearance at the Olympic Games, third seed Pete Sampras of USA was upset by Russia’s 13th seeded contestant Andrei Chrekasov in the third round. At the end of his career, Sampras had a record 14 Grand Slam titles but he could not win an Olympic medal.
1996 – Goran Ivanisevic
Croatia’s Goran Ivanisevic lost to South Africa’s alternate player Marcos Ondruska in the first round of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. Ivanisevic was the second seed of the draw but failed to clear even the first hurdle.
2000 – Marat Safin
Top seed at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Marat Safin of Russia was beaten by his low ranked French opponent Fabrice Santoro. Safin won the first set but squandered the opportunity to lose the following two, going down 6-1, 1-6, 4-6
2004 – Roger Federer
Ranked world number one at that time, Roger Federer of Switzerland was the first seed. However, he was toppled by the then world number 79 Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic in three sets 6-4, 5-7, 5-7 in the second round. Federer grabbed Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open in that year but he failed at the biggest sports event of the world.
2004 – Andy Roddick
USA’s top ranked player Andy Roddick also failed at the 2004 Athens Olympics, as he went down against 16th seeded Chilean player Fernando Gonzalez in twin sets 4-6, 4-6 in the third round.
2008 – Roger Federer
Federer’s fate once again did not help him, as the top seed and number one ranked player lost to the then world number seven James Blake of USA in straight sets 4-6, 6-7(2) in the quarter-finals.
2008 – Serena Williams
Although Serena Williams was seeded fourth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but she was one of the favourites to win the title. The former world number one got defeated at the hands of Russia’s Elena Dementieva 6-3, 4-6, 3-6in the quarter-finals.
Two of the most successful players of the 21st century Federer and Serena are bidding to win their first Gold Medal at the London Olympics. It can be said that this is the last and best chance for both of them.