The 2012 Olympic Games take place this summer from July 27-Aug. 12 in London, England. Tennis was in the middle of a 60-plus year hiatus from the Olympics when the games were last hosted by London in 1948. Consequently, this year will mark the first time since 1908 that the Grand Slam caliber courts of Wimbledon will be on display as the host venue for Olympic tennis. The final matches will also be historic, as Centre Court will be the gold medal showcase for the first time ever (the iconic centerpiece didn't open until 1922).
As Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic prepare to lead the stars of their sport onto the Olympic stage, here are 10 rules pertaining to Olympic tennis aimed at increasing the casual fan's understanding of the sport while watching the Games of the XXX Olympiad:
1. Rules - The tournament will be conducted under ITF (International Tennis Federation) rules along with the special "Rules and Regulations" publication prepared by the ITF specifically for the Olympics. Therefore, the general rules of tennis apply, with modifications noted in the publication above.
2. Eligibility - Players must be in good standing with the ITF and their national organization, must have been available for their country's Fed/Davis Cup team during the last four years, and needed to be in the top 56 of the World rankings as of June 11 for direct acceptance (although country limits, wildcards, and injuries will mean the cut-off will be lower than 56). Countries are limited to 12 total players (six men and six women); a maximum of four each are allowed to compete in the respective singles draws. The remaining players make up the doubles teams.
3. Compensation - Participants may not receive payment for the competition other than that "established in respect of their Olympic team." Other than small manufacturers' logos, competitors also may not wear items that signify endorsement deals by the athlete and a company during the tournament, so all individual endorsement contracts requiring large identifiers on clothes or equipment must be suspended during the Olympics. Logos from sponsors of the Olympic Games (not individuals) will still be seen.
4. Drug tests - Doping controls will be in place for tennis during the Olympics, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the ITF coordinating to administer the drug tests according to IOC rules.
5. Draw - Players from the same country will be placed in different portions of the draw. If there are two players or teams, they will be placed in opposite halves. In cases where three or four players from the same nation are participating, they will be split into separate quarters of the draw.
6. Scoring - With one exception, all of the matches during the Olympics will be determined by a best-of-three sets format. The only difference will be the men's singles final, which will be a best-of-five match.
7. Ceremony Participation - All medal-winning athletes are required to participate in the medal ceremony. Players are expected to attend opening, closing, and media events unless extenuating circumstances exist. Competitors may be fined up to $20,000 for violations of these requirements.
8. Age - In order to compete in the Olympics, male players must reach the age of 14 and females must be 15 by the opening day of the tennis competition (playing in the Olympics does not require a player to reduce the number of events that they play in as an under 18-year-old player).
9. Tiebreakers - The tiebreak will be used for the Olympics in almost every set, with a few variances. The fifth set of the men's singles final and the third set in all of the other matches (except mixed doubles) will use an advantage set. The third set in mixed doubles will utilize a match tiebreak to 10 points.
10. Player Control - All players must submit to disciplinary control and allow themselves to become the formal responsibility of their country's National Olympic Committee (NOC) regarding travel, uniforms, accommodations, and any other aspects of participation. These requirements last for the duration of the Olympics, as well as a time period of up to two weeks before the games for preparation and travel.
The author has been a fan of the Olympics since Los Angeles, 1984. He can't wait to see how tennis plays out at the Olympics this year since the games take place just weeks after Wimbledon concludes.