Usually only in the spotlight for Wimbledon fortnight, the All England Club is set to be the centre of attention on the tennis circuit just three weeks later in 2012 as it plays host to the Olympic Tennis event and the world's best players go for gold.
The tournament begins on July 29th
, just three weeks after the final day of Wimbledon, however, the Olympic event, which includes, mens singles, ladies singles, mens doubles, ladies doubles and mixed doubles (for the first times since 1924) will be decided over just eight days.
As far as the singles tournaments are concerned, they will be open to the top 56 ranked players in the world as at June 11th 2012. However, entry will be limited to a maximum of four players per country which means that in one or two cases, the rankings will be stretched to allow players outside of the top 56 to make up the numbers. For instance, Spain has nine players in the men's top 56 rankings which means that five of them will be ineligible allowing for five players outside the top 56 to play.
Other rules that have been applied to the Olympic event include the requirement that players must not be at odds with their national tennis associations and have been representative of their respective countries in such tournaments as the Davis and Fed Cups.
There will also be eight wildcard entries, six of which will be decided by the International Tennis Federation’s Olympic Committee, which will take into account rankings and the spread of the various nations, while the final two places will be awarded to players from small countries.
The men's and Ladies Doubles tournaments will be restricted to 24 teams who will automatically qualify from the rankings as at June 11th. This again will be restricted with only a maximum of two teams per nation. The remaining eight places will be decided by the International Tennis Federation’s Olympic Committee. The Mixed Doubles tournament will be decided nearer to the time of the Olympic Games.
All matches will be played on a three set basis with the exception of the men's singles and doubles final which will be the best of five sets.
The reigning Olympic men's singles champion is Rafael Nadal of Spain who won his Gold Medal by defeating Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in straight sets in the final in Beijing four years ago. The bronze medal was won current world number one, Novak Djokovic, who beat James Blake of the USA.
It was the Russian team who dominated the Ladies singles, with Svetlana Kuznetsova defeating compatriot, Dinara Safina in a tough three set final, while a third compatriot, Vera Zvonareva won the Bronze medal defeating Li Na from China.
Men's doubles champions were Switzerland who were represented by Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka. They beat the Swedish pair of Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johanson in the final, while the favourites and brothers, Bob and Mike Bryan of the USA could only manage Bronze Medal.
The Williams sisters also of the USA won the Gold Medal in the Ladies Doubles beating Spain’s Anabel Garrigues and Virginia Pascual, with the Chinese pair of Yan Zi and Zheng Jie taking the ‘Bronze’.
It is likely that once again in London, the Olympic Tennis
event will see the usual suspects contending for the medals with the top four men right now seemingly unbeatable by any player outside of the quartet and if it wasn't one of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic or Murray to win gold, it would be a huge shock.