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Williams sisters to lead 2016 U.S. Olympic tennis team

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05: Gold medalists Serena Williams of the United States and Venus Williams of the United States celebrate during the medal ceremony for the Women's Doubles Tennis on Day 9 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on August 5, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
July 15, 2016 10:13 AM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

A combination of gold medal winners and Olympic debutants will represent Team USA on the tennis courts of Rio at the 2016 Olympics this summer.

The tennis portion of the 2016 Summer Games will be held at the Barra Tennis Center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 6-14, and will feature a total of 12 American players.

Leading the way are veteran Olympians Serena and Venus Williams. The Williams sisters are seeking the top spot on the doubles podium for the fourth time after claiming women’s doubles gold in 2000, 2008 and 2012.

Competing in her fourth Games, world No. 1 Serena is also looking to retain her singles gold medal from London four years ago. Sister Venus, currently No. 7 in the world and the singles gold medal winner in Australia in 2000, is appearing in her fifth Olympics and will also pull double duty in singles and doubles.

The sisters are coming off a successful run at Wimbledon, where Serena tied Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 major titles. Venus lost to eventual runner-up Angelique Kerber in the singles semifinals but went on to capture the doubles trophy with her younger sister.

Overall, the U.S. has won 21 Olympic medals in men’s and women’s tennis since it returned as a full medal sport in 1988, more than any other nation. But it is not just the Williamses and Bryans who have a shot at medaling in Brazil next month.

U.S. women’s tennis coach Mary Joe Fernandez nominated first-time Olympians Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and CoCo Vandeweghe to the squad. World No. 11 Keys and No. 23 Stephens will play in the singles competition, while Mattek-Sands and Vandeweghe will team up to play doubles.

Keys, 21, broke into the Top 10 for the first time this June to become the first American woman to debut in the Top 10 since Serena Williams in April 1999, and 23-year-old Stephens is in the midst of the most successful season of her career after winning WTA titles in Charleston, S.C., Auckland and Acapulco. Vandeweghe, 24, and Mattek-Sands, 31, won their first doubles title this year in Indian Wells and are expected to be medal contenders in Rio.

Men’s coach Jay Berger named Olympic rookies Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla and Brian Baker to his team. All four men will play in the singles competition, with Sock and Johnson teaming up in the doubles as well. Also playing doubles for Team USA are Baker and Rajeev Ram, who was added to the roster when the defending gold medalists in men's doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan, withdrew due to health reasons.

Ranked No. 25 in the world, Johnson is the highest-ranked American man on the team, followed by No. 26 Sock. Johnson, 26, who won his first tour title at the Wimbledon tune-up event in Birmingham, England, last month, and Sock reached the final of the ATP events in Auckland and Houston earlier this year; he peaked at No. 22 in the world in January. Rounding out the men’s squad are the up-and-coming Kudla, 23, one of the last direct entries into the Olympics, and former phenom Baker, 31, has been plagued by injuries over the past six years and used a protected ranking to earn his Olympic debut.

The U.S. will also nominate two teams in mixed doubles – which will be contested at the Olympics Games for the second time since tennis returned to the Games in 1988. The teams will be announced closer to the competition but will be made up from the 12 players already in the squad.  

Team nominations were made by the USTA’s Olympic Oversight Committee and are subject to approval by the United States Olympic Committee and the International Tennis Federation.

Ed. Note: This story was amended on July 31 to reflect the Bryans withdrawing from the Games due to health reasons.