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Summer Olympics Tennis 2012: Top 10 Things to Know

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The Olympic tennis tournament attracts many of the sport's top players, and we can expect the stars to come out for the 2012 Summer Games in London. Big names and an unparalleled setting will combine to draw the world's attention to the tennis competition.

As the tournament approaches, here are the top 10 things to know:

Location: The tennis competition will be held at historic Wimbledon -- officially titled the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. This marks a return of the Olympics to the grass courts of Wimbledon, which hosted tennis at the 1908 London Games in which Great Britain swept the medals.

Dates: Tennis will be played for nine consecutive days during the Games. The competition begins on July 28 and concludes with medal events on the weekend of Aug. 4-5.

Events: There will be five medal competitions: men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles.

Mixed Doubles: The 2012 Games welcome back mixed doubles to the Olympics, reappearing for the first time since 1924. The field will be limited to 16 teams, and some of the biggest names in tennis may opt to participate and take a shot at the shortest path to a medal.

Format: All matches throughout the tournament will be played as best-of-three sets with one exception; the final in men's singles will be best-of-five sets. Seedings for the competition are determined by world rankings.

Four Years Ago: At the Beijing Games in 2008, the four medal events were won by four different countries -- the U.S., Russia, Spain and Switzerland. The Russian delegation represented the only country to take home three tennis medals, earning a gold, silver and bronze by sweeping the women's singles.

Defending Men's Singles Champ: Rafael Nadal of Spain defeated an unexpected challenger, Fernando Gonzalez from Chile, in the 2008 men's final. Serbian Novak Djokovic earned the bronze medal.

Defending Women's Singles Champ: Russian women dominated the medal stand, as Elena Dementieva took the gold over compatriots Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva.

Defending Doubles Champs: U.S. sisters Venus and Serena Williams, who both lost in the quarterfinals of the singles tournament, teamed up to win the 2008 gold medal in women's doubles. Men's doubles was won by the Swiss pair of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.

Olympic History: Tennis has been absent from the Olympic Games more often than it's been included. The sport was an original event in the modern Olympics dating back to 1896, but it was dropped following the 1924 Games. Tennis didn't return to the Olympics until 1988.

SOURCES:

London 2012: Tennis

Yahoo! Sports: Beijing Tennis Results

KW Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and lifelong fan of the Olympics. He attended the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

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