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Sat, April 20

Tennis Column: Wimbledon to host 2012 Olympics

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, a suburb of London, will get their second workout this summer, and only three weeks after the conclusion of the third Grand Slam of the year, with the 2012 Summer Olympics, which will be held July 28 through August 5.

Five events will entertain the spectators at the very first surfaced Olympian grass competition of singles, doubles and - not since 1924 - mixed doubles, which has now been officially returned.

Tennis, which ended as an Olympian event in 1924, returned 64 years later in 1988, and 88 years later for the mixed event. Hazel Wightman and R. Norris Williams of the United States were the last winners of the mixed doubles in 1924.

That 64-year gap of the Olympics without tennis had much to do with who was considered an amateur and who was not. That debate has been thrown out the window, both amateurs and professionals are now allowed to participate together.

A total of 172 athletes will compete over the nine day tennis portion of the Olympics, and the players, unlike the Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament, are allowed to wear colors other than white.

Twelve courts will be used thus only 26,000 spectators will be granted tickets on a daily basis for the singles draws of 64 players and doubles of 32.

Matches will consist of best-of-three sets, except the men's singles final, which will be the best of five.

The Wimbledon grounds will look very different from the traditional non-commercial grounds of that Grand Slam. The Olympics will deck out the tennis playing areas with paid advertising, as well as the players wearing the colors of their countries. It'll definitely have its own flavor.

Even the courts will be marked with the Olympic rings.

Four years ago the men's singles winner was Rafael Nadal and the women's Elena Dementieva. Doubles gold winners were Roger Federer and Stanishs Wawrinka and Venus and Serena Williams.

What will this year bring? It seems that all but Dementieva, who is now retired, will be back again in the competition.

The Olympics will create a small blip of concern when it over-shadows the Citi Open, held in Washington D.C. during the same time frame. But that in turn will give a few other players a chance to win a title that otherwise might normally have gone to one of the top players participating in the Olympics.

Tennis at the Olympics is run and organized by the international Olympic Committee and the International Tennis Federation. They work closely with the Association of Tennis Professionals, the Women's Tennis Association - as well as the All England Club.

Tour points for the ATP and WTA are given for each round of the Olympics, similar to a Master's tour event.

The United States just recently announced its Olympic coaches. Mary Joe Fernandez and Jay Berger are both former professional players, who are currently highly involved in the world of tennis developing U.S. players.

It looks as if the U.S. team of Olympic tennis players will consist of the following names; John Isner, Andy Roddick, Donald Young, Ryan Harrison, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Christina McHale and Varvara Lepehenko.

Doubles teams are as follows: Bob and Mike Bryan, along with Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond.

The mixed doubles teams will likely be picked from these names as well.

So as Wimbledon ends July 8 and 20 days later the Olympics begin, there will be a little extra excitement in the tennis world to watch unfold.

Anyone who gets the opportunity to represent their country in this special venue wouldn't miss it. Every four years it takes place, but it's certainly a once in a lifetime experience.

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