Coco Gauff Leads U.S. Tennis Team For Tokyo Games
by Chrös McDougall
Coco Gauff celebrates after winning her match against Francesca Jones at the The Championships - Wimbledon 2021 on June 29, 2021 in London.
In a changing of the guard, 17-year-old Coco Gauff leads the 12-person U.S. tennis team into next month’s Tokyo Olympic Games, which will mark the first Olympics in 25 years without Serena and Venus Williams. In addition, seven were named to the U.S. Paralympic tennis team on Thursday.
Joining Gauff in Tokyo will be Jennifer Brady, Jessica Pegula and Alison Riske in women’s singles, and men’s singles players Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, Tennys Sandgren and Marcos Giron.
The women’s doubles teams will consist of Gauff and Nicole Melichar, and Pegula and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. For the men, Tiafoe will partner with Rajeev Ram, and Sandgren is paired with Austin Krajicek.
Mixed doubles teams will be named later using the same pool of players.
In addition, eight-time Paralympic medalist David Wagner leads a team consisting of fellow quad player Bryan Barten, returning Paralympians Dana Mathewson, Emmy Kaiser and Shelby Baron in women’s, and Casey Ratzlaff and Conner Stroud in men’s. The Paralympic Games begin Aug. 24.
Brady, the 2021 Australian Open runner-up, is the top-ranked American at No. 15 in the WTA rankings, followed by Gauff and No. 23, Pegula at No. 26 and Riske at No. 29.
Paul leads the men at No. 52. Tiafoe is next at No. 57, followed by Giron at No. 66 and Sandgren at No. 68.
The only two returning Olympians, Mattek-Sands and Ram, are both 2016 medalists, with the former winning gold in mixed doubles and the latter taking silver in mixed doubles.
Gauff has been one of the sport’s sensations in recent years, having already reached the third round at all four Grand Slams and the quarterfinals of this year’s French Open. Tiafoe, 23, is coming off an upset win over No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the first round at Wimbledon earlier this week.
Wagner will be competing in his fifth Paralympics in the quad field, having won medals in each of the previous four. In Rio in 2016, he won a silver medal in doubles and bronze medal in singles.
Several of the top-ranked Americans opted out of the Olympic tournament, many citing schedule conflicts, concerns over COVID-19 protocols or injuries. The Olympic tournament begins July 24, less than two weeks after Wimbledon.
“It's going to be a different Olympics from years past; it’s going to take away from it,” Giron told the Associated Press. “That being said, I feel like, as an athlete, I have to go at least once. So when I got the option, I absolutely jumped on it.”
The U.S. has won 39 medals, a record 21 of them gold, in Olympic tennis, led by the Williams sisters, who each have four gold medals since making their Olympic debuts in 2000. They won three gold medals together, with Serena winning singles gold in 2012 and Venus winning singles gold in 2000 and mixed doubles silver with Ram in 2016. That makes Venus Williams the most decorated Olympic tennis player.