With among the greatest global appeals of all sports, tennis serves as both a fun recreational activity as well as an incredible spectacle of athleticism and competition. The Olympics are no exception to the entertainment and excitement that tennis has provided its fans for many years.
Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic has carried this legacy of exceptional performance into the Tokyo 2020 Games, claiming a gold in Women’s singles and a silver in Women’s doubles.
Tennis has seen its share of iconic Olympians in the Open Era—the current era of professional tennis—which began in 1968 and includes each Olympic Games since Seoul 1988. If you’re a fan, or just curious, follow on for Olympic Women’s Tennis: 5 Most-Decorated Medallists of the Open Era!
1. Venus Williams (USA)
Although injuries have plagued the most recent leg of her career, Venus Williams is the most successful tennis player in the history of the Olympic Games. At the 2016 Rio Games, Venus became the most decorated tennis player in Olympic history since 1896. Her five Olympic medals include four golds and one silver.
Venus was a double gold medallist at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she won gold in both the singles and doubles category. In addition, Venus and her sister Serena, have won a total of three gold medals in the Women’s doubles. The Williams sisters took the top spot on the podium at 2000 Sydney, 2008 Beijing, and 2012 London. Venus earned her fifth medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she won silver teaming up with fellow American Rajeev Ram.
Key Olympic achievements: One Olympic gold medal in Women’s singles (2000), three Olympic gold medals in Women’s doubles (2000, 2008, 2012), and one Olympic silver medal in Mixed doubles (2016).
2. Serena Williams (USA)
Serena Williams is one of the most prominent female athletes of the current generation and considered one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time. Alongside holding the record for most ever grand slam tournament wins (23), Serena is also a four-time Olympic medallist.
Williams won her medals during the course of three Olympic Games: 2000 Sydney, 2008 Beijing, and 2012 London. In each of these three stints, Serena and Venus joined forces as powerhouse doubles partners, making their mark with three gold medal victories.
Serena had her most dominant performance at the London Olympics, finishing with two gold medals. She beat Maria Sharapova in the finals in straight sets 6-0, 6-1 to win her first and only singles gold.
Key Olympic achievements: One Olympic gold medal in Women’s singles (2012) and three Olympic gold medals in Women’s doubles (2000, 2008, 2012).
3. Steffi Graf (Germany)
German legend Steffi Graf is widely recognised as one of the greatest women’s tennis players in history. She won 22 Grand Slam titles during the course of her professional career, the second-most behind Serena Williams since the start of the Open Era.
However, there is one achievement in her career that stands out. In 1988, at just 19 years-old, Steffi Graf won the Golden Slam. To this day, she remains the only player in tennis history–male or female–to achieve the feat. A term coined by the media, the Golden Slam is when a player wins all four Grand Slams—the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open—in addition to the Olympic gold medal in the same year.
Graf also added a bronze medal to her exceptional pedigree at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, finishing third in the Women’s doubles event. In the next Olympics, Graf returned to the final in the Women’s singles event, but finished with a silver medal after being defeated by Jennifer Capriati.
Key Olympic achievements: *One Olympic gold medal in Women’s singles (1988), one Olympic silver medal in Women’s singles (1992), and one Olympic bronze medal in Women’s doubles (1988).
*In 1984, at just 15 years old, Graf won the Olympic tennis demonstration tournament, despite being its youngest entrant. Technically, this does not count within the scope of the Open Era, as tennis did not return to the Olympic program as a main event until Seoul 1988.
4. Aranxta Sanchez Vicario (Spain)
Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Spain’s best ever women’s tennis player, boasts the impressive feat of winning four Olympic medals in her career. The former World No.1 won two silver and two bronze medals in the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics respectively.
Sanchez Vicario claimed bronze in the singles category and silver in doubles at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. She went on to secure another set of silver and bronze medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, winning silver in the singles category and bronze in doubles. Arantxa’s feats at the Olympics add an extra layer of achievement to her 14 Grand Slam titles and outstanding career.
Key Olympic achievements: One Olympic silver medal in Women’s singles (1996), one Olympic silver medal in Women’s doubles (1992), one Olympic bronze medal in Women’s singles (1996), and one Olympic bronze medal in Women’s doubles (1992).
5. Mary Joe Fernandez (USA)
Mary Joe Fernandez was an American professional tennis player who was best known for her impressive accomplishments in Women’s doubles. Fernandez was born in the Dominican Republic to a Spanish father and a Cuban mother, but the family moved to Miami, Florida when she was a young girl.
Mary Joe competed in both singles and doubles at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. She won gold in the doubles both years, partnered with Gigi Fernandez (although they are not related). Although she never won a grand slam singles event, Mary Joe managed to win Olympic bronze in singles at Barcelona in 1992.
Key Olympic achievements: Two Olympic gold medals in Women’s doubles (1992, 1996), and one bronze medal in Women’s singles (1992).
Which were your favourite moments from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games? Who are your all-time favourite tennis players? Let us know in the comments below, and join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!