Feature | Tennis

Olympic tennis at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

The biggest stars of the sport will chase after Olympic gold, including Djokovic, Nadal, Serena Williams and Osaka Naomi. Schedule, venue, format and more.

By Nick McCarvel ·

Tennis at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021 will fall between Grand Slam events at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and is the ninth staging of the sport as a medal event since its return to the Olympic programme in 1988.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are still seeking their first Olympic gold medal in singles while Andy Murray goes for his third in a row. Osaka Naomi is the home hope in the women’s singles event, while Nishikori Kei will try to equal or better his Rio 2016 bronze medal.

Here, we take a closer look at the athletes in contention for the podium and take in some Olympic history in our guide to Olympic tennis at Tokyo 2020.

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The Olympic tennis event is managed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), which has set 7 June as the rankings date cut off for Olympic qualification.

Djokovic, the London 2012 bronze medallist, will aim to capture Olympic gold, one of the few accomplishments still missing from his CV, similar to that of Federer. The ‘Swiss maestro’ won doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka at Beijing 2008.

Nadal was the gold medal winner at Beijing, and continues to be a fierce force in men’s tennis beyond just his savoured red clay, having won the French Open for a 13th time in 2020.

Murray became the first player to win back-to-back singles golds in tennis in 2012 and 2016, but has had injury struggles over the last several years. Murray has said he would "love to compete again" at the Olympics.

Nishikori, similarly, has had his own injury challenges, but former world No.4 will still eye the podium in front of the home crowds.

2020 U.S. Open winner Dominic Thiem is coached by double Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu, while other male players to watch include Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev, Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini.

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Top Olympic tennis players at Tokyo 2020 - Women

Osaka is one of several favourites among the women, and along with Nishikori is one of the national faces of the Summer Games. She is a three-time major champion, winning the U.S. Open in 2018 and 2020, as well as the Australian Open in 2019.

She will have history maker Serena Williams to contend with, already the owner of four Olympic gold medals, including three doubles golds with sister Venus. If Venus is to play, it will be alongside sister Serena, having fallen too low in the rankings among the U.S. women.

Sofia Kenin and Madison Keys are other American names to know, while major champions Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Bianca Andreescu, Garbiñe Muguruza, Victoria Azarenka and Rio silver medallist Angelique Kerber can’t be overlooked.

Youth Olympic Games medallist Iga Swiatek will look to continue her success from 2020, as well, having won her maiden major at the French Open.

Top 10 regulars Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Kiki Bertens and Aryna Sabalenka could contend for the podium, as reigning Olympic champion Monica Puig will look to re-capture her Olympic magic on the courts of Tokyo.

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Nadal teamed up with good friend Marc Lopez to win gold at Rio, while the world No.1 team coming into 2021 is Colombian pair Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

Ekaterina Makaraova and Elena Vesnina won in the women’s, both having since walked away from the game (Vesnina is due back this year). The highest-ranked, single-nation duo in women’s doubles at the start of the year are the Czech Republics Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.

Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock are the reigning Olympic champions in mixed doubles.

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Olympic tennis schedule at Tokyo 2020

All times are Japan Standard Time (GMT/UTC+9).

The competition will take place from 24 July - 1 August 2021.

Date and Time: Sat 24 July 11:00 - 20:00

Men's Singles First Round
Women's Singles First Round
Men's Doubles First Round
Women's Doubles First Round

Date and Time: Sun 25 July 11:00 - 20:00

Men's Singles First Round
Women's Singles First Round
Men's Doubles First Round
Women's Doubles First Round

Date and Time: Mon 26 July 11:00 - 20:00

Men's Singles Second Round
Women's Singles Second Round
Men's Doubles Second Round
Women's Doubles Second Round

Date and Time: Tue 27 July 11:00 - 20:00

Men's Singles Second Round
Women's Singles Third Round
Men's Doubles Quarterfinals
Women's Doubles Second Round/Quarterfinals

Date and Time: Wed 28 July 11:00 - 20:00

Men's Singles Third Round
Women's Singles Quarterfinals
Men's Doubles Semifinals
Women's Doubles Quarterfinals
Mixed Doubles First Round

Date and Time: Thu 29 July 11:00 - 20:00

Men's Singles Quarterfinals
Women's Singles Semifinals
Women's Doubles Semifinals
Mixed Doubles Quarterfinals

Date and Time: Fri 30 July 12:00 - 20:00

Men's Singles Semifinals
Men's Doubles Gold Medal Match
Men's Doubles Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Sat 31 July 12:00 - 20:00

Men's Singles Bronze Medal Match
Women's Singles Bronze Medal Match
Women's Singles Gold Medal Match
Women's Singles Victory Ceremony

Date and Time: Sun 1 Aug. 12:00 - 20:00

Men's Singles Gold Medal Match
Men's Singles Victory Ceremony
Women's Doubles Gold Medal Match
Women's Doubles Victory Ceremony
Mixed Doubles Gold Medal Match
Mixed Doubles Victory Ceremony

*The above includes all possible events each day. The final court assignments and order of play are subject to change up until the day of the session.

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Olympic tennis venue at Tokyo 2020

Ariake Tennis Park in full accommodates nearly 20,000 spectators, with the main stadium, the Ariake Coliseum, seating 10,000 of them, an arena that is equipped with a retractable roof. It was originally constructed in 1985.

In total, 11 courts will be used for tennis competition, though the Park has 43 in total. Many courts will be used for practices and warm-ups.

The Park is located at the heart of the Games, where venues for gymnastics, volleyball, BMX, 3x3 basketball and other disciplines are situated.

Ariake Tennis Park's main stadium, Ariake Coliseum

Olympic tennis competition format at Tokyo 2020

The tennis competition will be played on outdoor hard courts and feature men’s singles and women’s singles, both with a 64-player (six round) draw. The format is knockout, meaning if a player loses at any point before the semi-finals, he or she is eliminated.

The four semi-finalists will play for medals: The two winners of the semi-finals will meet for gold (and silver); while the two players defeated in the semi-finals will play for bronze.

The same goes for the medals in men’s and women’s doubles, though the draws are one round smaller, meaning there will be 32-team draws (five rounds).

The mixed doubles will feature 16 teams.

Scoring is regular tennis scoring, with matches played best out of three sets, each using a tie-breaker at six games all. Only the men’s singles final is played as a best of five-set format, like in the Grand Slams.

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Olympic tennis history

Having been a part of the modern Olympics from 1896 to 1924, tennis returned as a medal sport in 1988 and has since remained as part of the programme, adding mixed doubles to the singles and doubles competitions in 2012.

While the draws are smaller than at the sport’s four majors – the Grand Slams – tennis Olympic gold is coveted, and has been won by some of the greats in the game, including current players like Venus and Serena, Federer, Nadal, Murray, and others.

When the sport returned in 1988, Steffi Graf won “the Golden Slam” – and remains the only player in history to have done so: All four majors and Olympic gold in one year.

Other well-known gold medallists include Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport at Atlanta 1996, Justine Henin at Athens 2004 and the doubles teams of Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge (1996) and Bob and Mike Bryan (2012). Jennifer Capriati is the youngest-ever Olympic gold medallist in tennis, having won at age 16 years, four months at Barcelona 1992.

Azarenka teamed up with countryman Max Mirnyi to win the mixed doubles in 2012, as well.

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