Why top tennis players cancel the Olympics en masse?

No spectators at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and hardly any top male tennis players. Program too busy, measures too heavy or body too fragile. Enough excuses not to take part: why top tennis players cancel en masse for the Olympics.

Is he coming or not coming? The International Tennis Federation is holding on tight, Roger Federer (ATP 8) does not yet know whether he will take part in the Olympic tennis tournament. If the Swiss cancels, he will follow the example of sixteen (!) colleagues from the top 40.

No spectators at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and hardly any top male tennis players. Program too busy, measures too heavy or body too fragile. Plenty of apologies for a series of cancellations. Rafael Nadal did not take part in Wimbledon and will not go to Tokyo—exhausted after the clay season—but was announced yesterday at the tournament in Washington (in the week after the Olympics).

For the 35-year-old Spaniard, his visit to the capital of America will be a first while he already has two Olympic participations – gold in Beijing and bronze in Rio – on his resume. Time for something different in a difficult and trying season.

Roger Federer will probably ask himself the same question: is it worth it? “You can’t play everything,” the Swiss, who will turn 40 in 30 days, already said during Wimbledon.

For the tennis icon it would be his fifth Olympic passage – bronze in Sydney 2000 and silver in London 2012 – with his Japanese clothing sponsor Uniqlo possibly willing and able to give him a push in the right direction.

But Federer would have to spend a while without a family or extensive entourage for that, just like at Wimbledon. Locked up in the tennis bubble again, without the chance to visit other sports or athletes. No fun in Tokyo. To then immediately have to connect to the American hard-court tour.

That’s how many players of the younger guard think about it. Young twenty-something Denis Shapovalov (ATP 12), Casper Ruud (ATP 14), or Jannik Sinner (ATP 23) are putting their first Olympic experience ‘on hold’ for a while.

They give priority to the tennis circuit, the ATP points, and the money that can be collected there. They are followed by Grigor Dimitrov (ATP 21). “After a difficult year and a half, it is not on my priority list,” said the Bulgarian. “We have competition every week, it’s not that we have to wait four years to play a grand slam tournament, for example.”

Nick Kyrgios also announced that he will not participate in the Games. “A decision that I thought about for a long time. It was always my dream to represent Australia at the Games, but I know myself… Playing in empty stadiums is not for me.”

With David Goffin (ATP 15) still uncertain, something can further thin the quality of the field of participants out. So for the ITF (organizer), the Olympic dream could turn into a nightmare.

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