Strong emotional connect in tennis at Paris Olympics

Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal
Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal (PC: X)

If you thought the tennis competition at the Paris 2024 Olympics is only for the youngsters, forget it. Going through the acceptance list for the event to played on brick red clay at Roland Garros, there are any number of names which generate an emotional connect. The first, of course, will be Rafael Nadal, who is more or less likely to retire from tennis after this. For someone who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, signing out on a high with current French Open champion Carlos Alcaraz is the ‘high’ he wants.

At the same time, there is an emotional connect with Andy Murray, who has been named by Team GB in the list of athletes who will represent Britain in Paris 2024. Sir Andy has battled various fitness issues and it is certain he will try his luck at The Championships in Wimbledon from July 1 to 14 and then head to Paris. He knows, what is pushing him in his career is that incredible adrenaline high which most athletes get from competing in the Olympics. When he won the men’s singles title at the 2012 London Olympics, the value was very high, from a fan’s perspective.

London was one of the most traditional tennis events at the Olympics, since its re-inclusion in 1988 at Seoul, South Korea. For the record, when the tennis event of the London Olympics was played at the hallowed precincts of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, that, in itself, was a big attraction. Andy Murray went on to win the Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro as well in 2016. Those were the days when he was fit and agile.

Now 37, Andy Murray knows he is pushing very hard to stay fit. The hip replacement is old news, but his ‘back’ has also not been cooperating well. But then, the lure of an Olympics is high. “Probably if I was going to finish my career, I would rather finish at Wimbledon or an Olympic Games — to me that would probably be more fitting,” he said recently. “I’ve had amazing experiences and memories from Wimbledon, but also being part of British Olympics teams.”

If Andy Murray and Nadal are emotional connects, how does one rule out Novak Djokovic totally. After surgery on his right knee following a meniscus tear sustained during the French Open, Djokovic has already hit rehab. Novak has posted on his Insta handle, he is back in the gym and at it. Given his kind of game and how slippery clay can be, he will take a final call on the Paris Olympics in due course. He has, as yet, not said “no” to the Olympics. It is a decision he will take in July. The strengthening videos he has posted on Insta gives an impression he is relatively pain free.

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Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka
Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka (PC: WTA/X)

That brings one to two ladies who are on the waiting list for a slot in ‘ladies singles’ draw at Wimbledon, but are certain for the Paris Olympics – Caroline Wozniacki and Naomi Osaka, after being nominated by their countries. Both Wozniacki and Osaka are back in professional tennis after maternity breaks. Wozniacki, a former World No.1 who won one Grand Slam title, made a return last year at the US Open and then took part in the Australian Open in Melbourne in January 2024.

She knows, she is going to find it hard to compete against the younger players like Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina. But that does not intimidate her one bit as she is gearing up for the grass-court season in Britain. Wozniacki is on the “waiting list” for Wimbledon, like Osaka, but as far as her preparations go, she is going full tilt.

Osaka was, indeed, the face of the Tokyo Olympics. The winner of four Grand Slam titles surprised many by opting to represent Japan at the Olympics, three years ago, since she had been staying mostly in the United States of America. But then, whether it was sponsorship deals promised by Japan or an emotional connect, Osaka lit the cauldron at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony. Her loss in the third round to Marketa Vondrousova at the Tokyo Olympics was not what tennis fans wanted. She was accused of just “showing up” for fun.

One cannot say that now about Osaka, who has shown that even after the forced break from tennis – maternity leave – her comeback has been emotional. Osaka did look rusty and jaded in Melbourne during the Australian Open, but her fight against Iga Swiatek in the French Open second round was pleasing to watch. Osaka is also on the waiting list for Wimbledon but will be more than prepared for going flat out at the Paris Olympics.

Whether or not the above-mentioned star cast wins a medal at the Paris Olympics or not, for sheer star presence, they will be most sought after. That’s why the Olympics is about young and the old!

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