Is Tennis An Olympic Sport? (Facts & History Explained)

The Olympic Games are one of the world’s biggest and most famous sporting events. The very best athletes by country and sport participate in this event. Many different sports are played during the Olympics. But is tennis an Olympic sport?

Tennis is officially featured as an Olympic sport. From the inaugural Olympics in 1896 to the 1924 Olympics, tennis was a part of the Olympic program. It was removed due to a disagreement between the IOC and the ITF. Tennis returned to the Olympics in 1988 and has been a part of the Olympic program since then.

In this article, we’ll discuss the history and overview of tennis as an Olympic sport and its evolution through the years since its inception in 1896. I’ll also mention the most astonishing facts and events of tennis in the past.

History of Olympic Tennis

Joue de paume, the predecessor of tennis, was a recognized Olympic sport in 1908. In 1924, there was a jeu de paume performance called “real tennis” around that time.

Tennis got its name from the French word “tenez” (meaning “here it comes”), something that you told the opposing player as you were preparing to serve.

The sport’s developments, which included the creation of the racket in the 1600s and the unique point system (15, 30, 40, game), inevitably led to tennis.

Here are some key events in the history of tennis in a chronological manner.

Introduction to Olympics (1894):

Athletic games such as soccer, lawn tennis, real tennis, etc., were requested to be included in the Olympics during the June Paris Congress.

Withdrawal from the Olympics (1928):

Tennis’ exclusion from the Olympic tournament was authorized at the 27th IOC Session, which took place in Amsterdam.

After talks between the two major parties, IOC and the International Federation (ITF), broke down due to the varied demands of ITF, this decision was accepted. ITF wanted to define “amateurism” in its specific terms.

The Olympic Games are governed by a charter established in 1908 and laid out its policies and procedures. Amateurism is defined under Article 26 of the charter.

According to the article, professional players are forbidden from participating in the games. They describe amateur players as those who actively pursue sports in addition to doing a wage job.

The rule’s primary goal was to protect the Olympics from capitalism.

Since the charter’s definition of an amateur is ambiguous, the ITF argued whether professional athletes should be permitted to compete in the Olympics. The IOC rejected their proposal while upholding their viewpoints.

Tennis was ultimately chosen to be removed by the IOC owing to the controversy.

Return of tennis (1981):

Tennis was added to the schedule of the XXIV Olympiad in Seoul in 1988 during the 84th IOC Session.

Introduction of mixed doubles (2009):

The inclusion of mixed doubles for the 2012 Games in London was authorized at the IOC Executive Meeting of the board in Germany in August 2009.

The Evolution of Tennis in The 20th Century

Tennis saw several significant changes when it was not included in the Olympic program, such as the introduction of the “Grand Slam” in the 1930s, which involved playing the 4 “major” events:

In 1968, the Open period began, indicating the end of amateurism and the commencement of the sport’s professionalization. The ATP and WTA launched their worldwide and weekly rankings in 1973. The rackets also saw significant alteration.

Evolution in the number of events

Tennis didn’t always have multiple events during the Olympics. It started with just two men’s events and evolved into many more.

Here is a table showing the evolution of events in Olympic tennis:

YearNumber of events
18962 events (men’s)
19004 events (2 men’s, 1 women’s, 1 mixed)
19042 events (men’s)
19086 events (4 men’s, 2 women’s)
19128 events (4 men’s, 2 women’s, 2 mixed)
1920-19245 events (2 men’s, 2 women’s, 1 mixed)
1988-20084 events (2 men’s, 2 women’s)
2012-20205 events (2 men’s, 2 women’s, 1 mixed)

Source

Essential Facts About Olympic Tennis

Since tennis has long been part of the Olympics, many important moments have occurred.

Below are the most important moments in Olympic tennis history:

First Olympic gold in tennis:

Irishman John Boland won the inaugural gold medal in Olympic tennis.

First female winner:

Englishwoman Charlotte “Chattie” Cooper, having won the tennis singles in the 1900 Olympics, became the first woman to win gold in the tennis Olympic games.

Olympics Vs. Wimbledon:

When Wimbledon and the Olympics both took place around the same time in 1912, the top athletes opted to play in Wimbledon.

Successful female tennis player:

French woman Suzanne Lenglen is one of the most successful tennis players. In 1920, she lost four games but still won the Olympic championship.

Withdrawal from Olympics (1924):

In 1924, tennis authorities and the Olympics committee had a messy falling out. The Olympic committee and the major tennis federations couldn’t come to terms on whether professional players should be permitted to compete.

The comeback of tennis (1988):

Tennis made a formal comeback in 1988 after a 64-year break, with Czechoslovakian Miloslav Mecir taking home the men’s title and Steffi Graf taking home the women’s.

Most accomplished Olympic tennis player:

American Venus Williams, with four gold medals and a silver, is the most accomplished tennis player in Olympic history. Serena Williams, her sister, has also taken home four golds.

Tennis rankings:

Results from the Olympic tennis competition now contribute to both the ATP and WTA singles global rankings since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Mixed doubles in London:

For the very first time since 1924, a mixed doubles competition was formally added to the 2012 Olympics Games in London.

John Millman Vs. Ricardas Berankis:

The first time a player lost zero games in a match in Olympic tennis occurred when Australian John Millman defeated Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the opening round of the competition in Rio, 6-0, 6-0.

This performance made Australian John Millman the first player in Olympic tennis history to win a match with a double bagel.

Conclusion

As you have read, the Olympics and tennis have a long history together. Despite the emergence of some new racket sports in recent years, I do not expect tennis to disappear from the Games.

However, tennis could undergo new developments in the coming years to remain attractive to the general public and major events like the Olympics.

Brian Henderson

I am what you might call a true tennis fanatic. When I am not on the tennis court teaching or playing myself, I am probably writing an informative article about tennis. My goal is to get as many people as possible excited and informed about tennis.
Published: 
September 18, 2022
Published: September 18, 2022