Venus and Serena Williams won doubles gold at the Beijing Olympics despite a less than stellar commitment to Fed Cup. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
In last week’s Toss, SI.com tennis producer C.W. Sesno came on to discuss the recent stability at the top of the WTA, a change from the last four years. Here to stay, or another fad? The readers have spoken, but barely: 56 percent of poll takers think the WTA’s top four will remain competitive at the top of the rankings.
This week, tennis blogger Ben Rothenberg joins The Toss to delve into the recent changes the ITF put in place for qualifying for the 2016 Olympics.
Today’s Toss: Should there be separate Olympic qualification requirements for tennis players?
Courtney Nguyen: Thanks for joining me this week, Ben. I don’t know about you, but the “B”, “L”, “U” and “E” keys on my laptop are no longer functioning thanks to Madrid, so let’s do everyone a favor and not talk about that whole mess. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have Olympic fever than a bad case of the blues.
Before we dive into this debate a bit of background is in order. The ITF recently announced a significant change in the qualification rules for the 2016 Olympics. Currently, players must make themselves available for two Davis Cup or Fed Cup ties in the two years before the Olympics, hence Serena Williams’ recent sojourn to Kharkiv, Ukraine in April. But beginning after the London Olympics, players will have to make themselves available to play four times in an Olympic cycle. It’s fairly obvious that the impetus for the change is to use Olympic qualifying as a way to get players to commit more regularly to Davis Cup and Fed Cup, competitions that are run by the ITF. The change hasn’t gone down well with the top players, who have complained that it forces them to play more in a season that is already long and grueling.
We can talk about whether the changes are good or bad but I thought it would be fun to discuss an even broader issue: Should there even be Olympic qualification rules for tennis players? Why not just do a modified direct acceptance scheme (limiting the number of players from a single country) like they do at the Slams, which is based entirely on ranking?