While some of the world’s top golfers have withdrawn from next week’s Rio Games because of concerns about the Zika virus, members of the USA’s Olympic tennis team are looking forward to playing in Brazil.
Sloane Stephens and Steve Johnson will both be making their Olympic debuts in Rio de Janeiro. The 23-year-old Stephens is currently ranked 23rd in the women’s world tennis rankings, while the 26-year-old Johnson is at number-21 in the men’s rankings.
Both players competed at the recent Citi Open hard court tournament here in Washington. The tennis action in Rio will also be on a hard court surface, providing the players with a good warm-up for the U.S. Open in New York in late August, the year’s final Grand Slam event.
In an interview with my Voice of America colleague Bill Workinger, Sloane Stephens talked about the thrill of going to her first Olympics.
Sloane Stephens describes the USA’s Olympic women’s tennis team as “pretty strong and pretty deep.” The squad is led by world number-one and four-time Olympic champion Serena Williams, who won her seventh Wimbledon singles title earlier this month.
In addition, Serena teamed with her older sister, Venus, to win her sixth Wimbledon doubles crown. The Williams sisters have won gold medals in women’s doubles at the past two Olympics, while Serena is also the defending Olympic champion in women’s singles. However, there are injury concerns about Serena ahead of Rio 2016 – she pulled out of this week’s Rogers Cup tournament in Canada because of shoulder inflammation.
The USA’s Olympic men’s tennis team also has a formidable duo in doubles, the twin brothers and defending Olympic champions Bob and Mike Bryan. Brian Baker, Dennis Kudla, Steve Johnson and Jack Sock will play singles, while Sock and Johnson will also play doubles. Like Sloane Stephens, Johnson is very excited about competing at his first Olympics.
A total of 172 players are expected to challenge for medals at the Olympic Tennis Center in Rio de Janeiro. Action begins August 6th, with the women’s singles final August 13th and the men’s singles final August 14th.
Editor’s Note: On July 29th, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, the defending Olympic doubles champions, announced they were pulling out of the Rio Games, citing health concerns that have prompted other athletes to skip the Olympics as well.