26 Apr 2012

Home advantage for Brits at London 2012?


NEWS ARTICLE

Photo: Paul ZimmerThe All England Lawn Tennis Club from the air

It is a privilege that very few athletes, let alone tennis players, can lay claim to - competing in an Olympic Games on home soil.

But for a small group of British tennis players, that dream could soon become a reality as London 2012 fast approaches and with it what promises to be a memorable tennis event at the home of Wimbledon.

British men's No. 1 Andy Murray has made no secret of the fact that he is motivated to come away with a gold at London 2012, so much so he has hinted that he might even play in singles, doubles and mixed doubles to better improve his chances of a medal.

Statistically speaking he represents the best chance that the hosts have of seeing one of their native tennis players standing on top of the podium being that he is the only player currently ranked inside the Top 60 in singles.

But the Scot has yet to reach the final at Wimbledon, which is also the venue for the Olympic Tennis Event, so one cannot realistically say that the turf of SW19 offers him any actual home advantage.

In fact, the All England Lawn Tennis Club can probably be said to favour Switzerland's Roger Federer, who has won six singles titles there, more than London resident Murray.

And what of British hopes in the women's draw? The host nation currently have a team of four female players who are pushing for an Olympic spot - Elena Baltacha (ranked No. 63), Anne Keothavong (No. 77), Heather Watson (No. 113) and Laura Robson (No. 120).

The quartet might have suffered a miserable defeat to Sweden in last weekend's Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-offs, but that hasn't stopped them daydreaming about competing for an Olympic medal on home soil.

"I’m really looking forward to it," said Baltacha. "I can’t believe how quickly the year’s gone. I remember preparing for it three years ago and I just can’t believe it’s so near now, but it’s going to be really exciting and hopefully I’m going to make the cut."

Baltacha, another Scot, revealed she had no plans to play in the women's doubles but said that she was interested to play mixed, which would more than likely mean a pairing with countryman Murray.

The fact that this year's Olympics is in London is in itself no guarantee of success for the British contingent but since the reintroduction of tennis at the Olympic Games in 1988 only twice have host nations failed to win a medal - Korea Republic in 1988 and Greece in 2004 (and neither of these nations are exactly tennis powerhouses).

One must go all the way back to 1996 to see a host nation winning gold in the tennis event and that was when Andre Agassi won the men's singles, Lindsay Davenport the women's singles, and Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez the women's doubles at the Stone Mountain Tennis Centre in Atlanta.

A haul such as that might be an unrealistic expectation for Team GB, but a medal of any colour hanging round a British tennis players' neck is sure to bring the success-starved home support at Wimbledon to its feet. 



Photos

  • The All England Lawn Tennis Club from the airElena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong (GBR)
  • Andy Murray (GBR)Centre Court at Wimbledon
  • WimbledonCentre Court at Wimbledon

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