Women’s Tennis Olympic Medal Contenders Opt-Out of the Paris Olympics

Aryna Sabalenka (left) and Ons Jabeur (right) | (Credit: GETTY IMAGES)

Three of the World’s Top Women’s Tennis Players will not be competing in the 2024 Paris Olympics

Aryna Sabalenka, the reigning Olympic champion and Australian Open Champion, Ons Jabeur, the two-time Wimbledon finalist and Emma Raducanu have all opted out of the Paris Olympics to focus on Wimbledon and the US Open. Citing their health, rest and scheduling concerns were factors in their decisions due to the Olympic game’s tennis competition overlapping with the start of the U.S. Open Season.   

Aryna Sabalenka swinging her tennis racquet to hit the ball
Sabalenka (Credit: Colorado Springs)

Factors in their Decisions:

The players said they didn’t want to switch from grass at Wimbledon back to clay at Roland Garros for the Olympic tournament and then immediately start the hard-court season in North America.

Sabalenka said she prefers to rest and prepare for the hard-court season to ensure her physical readiness and the workload of the Olympics taking place with the start of the U.S. Open season was simply too much to bear. “I prefer to have a little rest to make sure physically and health-wise I’m ready for the hard courts, especially with the struggles I’ve been dealing with the last months, I feel I must take care of my health first.” 

Two Time Wimbledon Finalist Ons Jabeur from Tunisia wrote on X that not being able to play at a fourth consecutive Olympics was unfortunate.  “We (and my medical team) have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season,” Jabeur wrote.  “I have always loved representing my country in any competition; however,  I must listen to my body and follow my medical team’s advice.” Jabeur competed in the last three Olympics without winning a match.

Raducanu has undergone multiple surgeries on her hands and feet in 2023 due to injuries, impacting her decision to prioritize her health and form.

The tennis schedule is demanding, with tournaments overlapping the Olympics and offering ranking points, unlike the Olympics itself, posing challenges for players.

Ons Jabeur tennis olympic contender swinging and reaching to hit the tennis ball
Jabeur (Credit: Colorado Springs )

Court Surfaces Impact Play and Preparedness

The 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris will be played on the famous clay courts of Roland Garros.  This will mark the first Olympic clay court event since Barcelona in 1992, making it a return to the natural, slippery surface known for its physical challenges.  

On clay courts, the game style differs significantly from other surfaces like grass or hard courts.  Here are some key differences:

  1. Slower Pace:  Clay courts are slower due to their soft, granular surface.  The ball bounces higher and more slowly, allowing players more time to react and set up their shots.
  2. Long Rallies:  Longer Rallies are common on clay. The slower pace encourages more defensive play, with players retrieving shots and constructing points patiently. 
  3. Slide and Recovery:  Players often slide into their shots on clay to maintain balance and reach wide balls. This technique is unique to clay courts and requires a lot of practice. 
  4. Physical Demands: Clay courts demand greater physical endurance.  Players must cover more ground, slide, and engage in extended rallies. 

Mental and Physical Health A Priority

Raducanu’s choice reflects the complex balancing act players face between personal health, career success, and scheduling conflicts in the tennis world.

The tennis community continues to debate the significance of Olympic participation and its impact on player rankings and professional obligations.

Impact on Women’s Tennis:

The ongoing criticism of players’ Olympic decisions may lead to broader discussions among players and the commission regarding the importance of individual choices in a jam-packed tennis calendar.

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