Friday, July 29, 2016

Previewing Tennis at the Rio Olympics

By Marc James

More tennis players have withdrawn from the Olympics, while Spain's flag-bearer, Rafael Nadal, may not play singles at Rio 2016.

A gold medallist in singles at Beijing 2008, world No. 4 Rafael Nadal has been battling a wrist injury and while he still intends to travel to the Games, and possibly carry the flag for Spain in the opening ceremony, there have been rumors that Nadal will not be fit enough to play singles.

Nadal is currently scheduled to play singles, men's doubles and mixed doubles with French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, but his participation has been put in doubt by the wrist injury which saw him pull out of the French Open midway through the tournament and miss Wimbledon entirely.

David Ferrer called Nadal's situation "delicate," but his uncle and coach Toni Nadal was more positive after training sessions with Andy Murray in Mallorca.

"We began to intensify his training in order to be ready in time for the first round. Training with Andy Murray was a really hard first time with another top player and we are happy. Things worked out well," Nadal said.

"In Rio, we will start training with the maximum-level players and see how Rafael will respond to the difficulty of the competition.

"There are doubts about his game. I believe that is normal -- these are the same questions we've always had after a period of inactivity. Starting with the Olympics is not easy but, if we are lucky in the draw, he can improve step by step."

Most of tennis's top stars, including world No. 1s Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber, are still scheduled to be in action when live tennis begins at the Rio Olympics on Monday, August 8.

But Roger Federer will not be competing due to ongoing rehabilitation after the knee surgery he underwent in February, while several top players have pulled out due to fears over the Zika virus, including Romania's Simona Halep, the world No. 5, and Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic who is competing this week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Others, including Austria's Dominic Thiem and the USA's John Isner, have declined to compete because the Olympics tennis event this year is not offering ranking points.

World No. 16 Belinda Bencic became the latest WTA Tour player to pull out on Thursday. Bencic, who was due to play doubles with Martina Hingis as well as singles, has had an injury-marred season and the 19-year-old was forced to pull out of Wimbledon with a wrist injury which she continues to rehab. "Although I have recovered from the wrist injury, I am behind in my training schedule," she wrote on social media.

Cyprus's Marcos Baghdatis also withdrew from Rio 2016 due to an ongoing elbow injury, saying he would be "doing injustice to my country" by competing at the Olympics if he was less than 100% fit.

Andy Murray and Serena Williams are among those who will be competing for the first time since Wimbledon when Rio 2016 begins on Monday, August 8, with both pulling out of this week's Rogers Cup in order to better prepare for the Games. Serbia's Novak Djokovic, Germany's Angelique Kerber, Japan's Kei Nishikori, and Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka are among the top players who have been warming up for Rio 2016 at the Rogers Cup, with all of them reaching the quarterfinal stages in Toronto and Montreal.

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