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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 April 2004, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Tennis serves up shocks
Serena and Venus Williams
Serena and Venus Williams won doubles gold for the USA in 2000
Tennis is among the most high-profile sports in the world with the leading players known internationally.

The sport was first played in England during the reign of King Henry VIII in the 16th Century, and was known as "real tennis".

Stringed rackets and a set of rules were introduced towards the end of the century, and by the 19th Century the rise of the British Empire saw the game spread around the world.

The first men's tournament took place at the All England Club, Wimbledon, in 1877, with the women joining seven years later, and tennis took its place in the Olympics in 1896.

A dispute over the definition of amateurism led to the sport being withdrawn from the Games in 1928, and it is a subject that continues to cast a shadow over the relationship between tennis and the Olympics.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee, was behind the drive to bring tennis back into the Olympic fold.

After being staged as a demonstration sport in 1984, tennis returned as a medal event four years later in Seoul.

The size and history of the four annual Grand Slam tournaments - the Australian, French and US Opens and Wimbledon - continues to raise questions over the legitimacy of the Olympic Games as the pinnacle of the sport.

But despite the difficulties, not least ensuring the world's best players choose to enter the Olympic event, there have been some dramatic moments in the last 16 years.

The 1988 Olympic champion Steffi Graf also won in Los Angeles four years earlier, aged 15, when tennis was a demonstration event
Perhaps the high point of tennis in the modern Olympics came on its reintroduction in 1998, when Steffi Graf took gold for Germany.

Victory gave the 19-year-old what came to be known as a "golden Grand Slam", adding the Olympics to the four major titles she won that year.

Miloslav Mecir of Slovakia was the surprise winner of the men's event, beating American Tim Mayotte.

Marc Rosset's victory four years later in Barcelona was an even greater shock in a field that included Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg.

And the women's event saw 16-year-old Jennifer Capriati defeat Graf in three sets to give the USA gold.

In Atlanta, 1996, the USA asserted their dominance on home ground, with Andre Agassi crushing Sergi Bruguera, although the Las Vegan went close to being defaulted for obscenities in his quarter-final with South Africa's Wayne Ferreira.

Lindsay Davenport took the women's gold, while Australians Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge cemented their place as possibly the best doubles pair ever when they beat Britain's Tim Henman and Neil Broad in the final.

In Sydney, 2000, the tennis event was completely sold out for the first time as Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Venus Williams came through strong fields to win the singles gold medals.

But there was another shock, as unheralded Canadians Daniel Nestor and Sebastien Lareau upset Woodforde and Woodbridge on the Aussies' final appearance together.

In tennis, much depends on the surface, and with Athens employing the same hardcourts as the US Open the more attacking players should have an edge.

But history suggests there will be some surprises along the way.

MEDAL TABLE (Top five)
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Men (since 1896)
Great Britain 11 9 11 31
USA 7 5 6 18
France 6 5 6 17
Germany 3 2 2 7
South Africa 3 2 0 5
Women (since 1900)
USA 9 0 4 13
Great Britian 5 5 5 15
France 2 2 1 5
West Germany 1 0 1 2
Greece 1 1 1 3

  • Mixed doubles results included in men's table

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