In 1896, Athens staged the first Modern Olympiad, fulfilling the dream of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the International Olympic Committee in 1894. He believed that the Modern Olympic Games would provide a platform for friendly competition in which all difference of status, religion, politics and race would be forgotten.

Tennis was part of the Summer Olympic Games program from the inaugural 1896 Summer Olympics, but was dropped after the 1924 Summer Olympics due to disputes between the International Lawn Tennis Federation and the International Olympic Committee over allowing amateur players to compete. After two appearances as a demonstration sport in 1968 and 1984, it returned as a full medal sport at the 1988 Summer Olympics and has been played at every edition of the Games since then. In 1896, 1900, 1904, 1988, and 1992, semifinal losers shared bronze medals. In all other years, a playoff match for the bronze medal was staged.

Origin of Tennis at the Olympics

Tennis was one of the original nine Olympic sports at Athens 1896. Ireland’s John Boland defeated Dionysios Kasdaglis to become the first Olympic tennis champion, while four years later, in Paris, Great Britain’s Charlotte Cooper defeated Helene Prevost to become the first woman ever to win an Olympic medal. The sport continued to be staged at the Games until 1924, with Laurie Doherty, Suzanne Lenglen, and Helen Wills among the more notable winners, but tennis withdrew from the Olympics after 1924. After a one-off demonstration/exhibition event at Mexico City 1968, it returned as a 21-and-under demonstration event at Los Angeles 1984, and this time it was here to stay.

The comeback followed a determined campaign by then ITF President Philippe Chatrier, ITF General Secretary David Gray and ITF Vice President Pablo Llorens, with great support from IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. The success of the event was overwhelming and the IOC decided to reintroduce tennis as a full medal sport at Seoul 1988. Since its return, the tennis event has gone from strength to strength. At London 2012, played on the grass courts of Wimbledon, the competition attracted record participation by the top players and drew capacity crowds for every session.

Many of the sport’s biggest names have won medals at the Games, including Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, and Venus and Serena Williams.

Here’s a look at the winners in the Men’s Singles’ at the respective Olympic Games:

Year Games Athlete Country
2012 London Andy Murray Great Britain
2008 Beijing Rafael Nadal Spain
2004 Athens Nicolas Massu Chile
2000 Sydney Yevgeny Kafelnikov Russia
1996 Atlanta Andre Agassi USA
1992 Barcelona Marc Rosset Switzerland
1988 Seoul Miloslav Mecir Czechoslovakia
1924 Paris Vincent Richards USA
1920 Antwerp Louis Raymond South Africa
1912 Stockholm Charles Lyndhurst Winslow South Africa
1908 London Josiah George Ritchie Great Britain
1904 St. Louis Beals Coleman-Wright USA
1900 Paris Hugh Lawrence Doherty Great Britain
1896 Athens John Boland Great Britain


From the above list we can see that Great Britain is the leader with four Gold medals with Andy Murray clinching the most recent Olympics with a win over the Swiss Maestro, Roger Federer in the finals of the 2012 London Games at a packed Wimbledon stadium the SW19. The USA is the next with three Gold medals; Andre Agassi was the last American man to win the Olympics in during the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Here’s a look at the Women’s Singles winners at the Olympics:

Year Games Athlete Country
2012 London Serena Williams USA
2008 Beijing Elena Dementieva Russia
2004 Athens Justine Henin-Hardenne Belgium
2000 Sydney Venus Williams USA
1996 Atlanta Lindsay Davenport USA
1992 Barcelona Jennifer Capriati USA
1988 Seoul Steffi Graf Federal Republic of Germany
1924 Paris Helen Wills USA
1920 Antwerp Suzanne Lenglen France
1912 Stockholm Marguerite Broquedis France
1908 London Dorothy Katherine Chambers Great Britain
1900 Paris Charlotte Cooper Great Britain

In the Women’s fixtures, USA leads by a huge margin with five Olympic titles. Serena Williams was the most recent winner after she beat Maria Sharapova of Russia in the finals of the London Olympics. Her sister Venus won the 2000 Sydney Olympics and before her Lindsey Davenport, Jennifer Capriati, and Helen Wills won the Atlanta, Barcelona and Paris games respectively.

London Olympics 2012

The playing surface varied between Olympic Games. It was played on hard court for every time since 1984 except for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics during which it was on a clay court and during the 2012 Olympics it was played on a grass court (Wimbledon). The change in playing surface gives certain players an advantages and disadvantages which are not seen in most other Olympic sports.

London 2012 took the Olympic Tennis Event to a new level. Played on the hallowed grass courts of The All England Lawn Tennis Club, home to the Wimbledon Championships, the world’s best players gathered once more with Serena Williams and Andy Murray stealing the headlines by winning the singles gold medals, while they also enjoyed success on the doubles court.

Williams was completely dominant and swept aside all before her with consummate ease. The American lost just 17 games on her way to the title, including a comprehensive 60 61 victory over Russia’s Maria Sharapova in the final. Williams, fresh from winning her fifth Wimbledon title, dropped her serve just once during the tournament.

Serena also teamed up with her sister Venus to successfully defend the women’s doubles gold medal after defeating Czech Republic’s Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 64 64. This milestone result saw the Americans become the only tennis players ever to win four gold medals, following their past Olympic successes at Sydney and Beijing.

Murray delighted the British fans by brushing aside Switzerland’s Roger Federer in straight sets to claim the men’s singles gold medal. Just four weeks after he lost to the same opponent in the Wimbledon final, the world No. 4 turned the tables to win 62 61 64 in 1 hour 56 minutes. It was an astonishing change of fortunes for Murray, who had so often played second fiddle to Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal in the preceding years. The Scot became the first British tennis player to win a singles gold medal since Major Josiah Ritchie achieved the feat over a century before at London 1908.

Murray wasn’t finished there, either. Teaming up with teenager Laura Robson, the British duo came within a whisker of winning the mixed doubles event, eventually losing to No. 1 seeds Victoria Azarenka and Max Mirnyi 16 63 [10-8]. It was a historic moment for the Belarussian pair who claimed their country’s first ever tennis gold medal. It was also a historic moment for the mixed doubles event, which was being contested as a full medal sport at the Olympics for the first time since Paris 1924.

The men’s doubles gold medal went to twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, who had long coveted the top Olympic prize. The Americans, seeded No. 1, overcame France’s Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 64 76(2) to win the title, improving on their bronze medal finish at Beijing 2008.

Tennis is well and truly back in the Olympic family. And when one sees the joy and pride on the faces of tennis players, like Federer, who have had the honour of carrying their country’s Olympic flag in the opening ceremony, it is clear that, even in a sport where the top players can do so well financially, the five rings are something extremely special. 2016 Rio Awaits!!

About The Author

I am an avid tennis player an also a passionate and ardent writer about Tennis. I'm an expert in Men's and Women's tennis and updated with all activities and events happening in the ATP as well as WTA tour. I can contribute stats as well as expert opinions on Tennis Shyam is a guest contributor to the WWTA.Today site. His options are his own.