Except world no.1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, several top-rated men will be staying away from tennis in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games for one reason or another. While Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have definite injury issues, others like Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine and Milos Raonic of Canada have cited Zika virus as the reason for skipping the Olympic Games. Last week Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka also pulled out without assigning any concrete reason but it seems they have the Zika virus threat in the back of their minds. The same is not the case in women’s draw except perhaps the withdrawal of Romanian Simona Halep, who also mentioned Zika as the reason. Other notable absentees include; Maria Sharapova, who is serving a 2-year doping ban and the pregnant Victoria Azarenka. Serena and Venus Williams are there with many other top WTA players and it will be interesting to see who gets the team and individual medals in women’s singles tournament at Rio.
The top half in women’s singles individual draw has world no.1 Serena Williams of USA; no.3 seed Garbine Muguruza of Spain and no.6 seed Roberta Vinci of Italy. The bottom half has no.2 seeded German Angelique Kerber, no.4 seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska, no.7 seeded American Madison Keys and no.8 seeded Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova. Based on their current and historical performance, the possible Round-16 matches could be; Serena vs. Svitolina, Kvitova vs. Vinci, Muguruza vs. Pavlyuchenkova, Bacsinszky vs. Venus, Keys vs. Suarez Navarro, Radwanska vs. Strycova, Kuznetsova vs. Konta and Kerber vs. Stosur.
Of the top four seeded players, Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska looks like having the smoothest passage through the medal rounds. Radwanska has been drawn far away from Serena with an easy first round against China’s Zheng Saisai. The highest ranked player that the Pole could face is world no.21 Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic before her quarterfinal either against USA’s Madison Keys or Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro. In contrast, Serena has a relatively tougher first-round encounter against the dangerous Australian Daria Gavrilova.
One look at the women’s singles draw will tell you that Swiss star Timea Bacsinszky has an extremely soft section in the second quarter. She plays her first round against China’s Zhang Shuai to run into the winner between Germany’s Laura Siegemund and Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova. This should be easy for her before she possibly meets USA’s Venus Williams in the third round. Great Britain’s Johanna Konta and Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova also have soft sections in their quarter and should easily sail into round of 16 to play one another. The winner between these two will probably face no.2 seed German Angelique Kerber, provided Kerber is able to beat Canadian Eugenie Bouchard or USA’s Sloane Stephens. If Kerber falters on the way, either Konta or Kuznetsova could enter the medal rounds.
For the London Olympic gold-medalist Serena Williams, the passage to the medal rounds looks full of questions. If she beats Gavrilova, her next opponent could be France’s Alize Cornet, a woman, against whom the world no.1 has lost thrice in one season alone. Assuming Serena wins the second round; her next opponent could be one of Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, German Andrea Petkovic or Briton Heather Watson. If Serena plays to her potential, she could reach the quarterfinals, where one out of Czech Petra Kvitova, Dane Caroline Wozniacki, Russian Ekaterina Makarova or Italian Roberta Vinci could be waiting for her. If the world no.1 holds herself together, she could face her French Open final conqueror Spaniard Garbine Muguruza in the semifinal. Quite clearly, out of the top four seeds, Serena has the toughest route for realizing her second singles Olympic gold-medal ambitions.