The game of tennis has been one of the important events in the Summer Olympics since 1988. This year the Tokyo Olympic Games were postponed to 2021 as a result of the Corona-Virus Pandemic. It is an absolute honor for tennis players to represent their countries at this prestigious event held once every 4 years. They all want to take home the golden glory and do their home nations proud. Let’s look back at the female tennis players who won WTA singles Olympic Gold medals in the Open Era.
Steffi Graf: 1988 Seoul Olympics
This was the first time that tennis was being included in the Olympic Games since 1920. German star Steffi Graf was the then world number 1 and also top seed for the tournament. After the 1st round bye, she raced through the initial draw with straight-sets victories over Leila Meskhi of Georgia and Catherine Suire of France. The quarterfinal match proved to be a bit of a test for Graf against Larisa Savchenko of the Soviet Union. The German however came out victorious in 3 sets.
In the semi-final match, Steffi beat Zina Garrison of the United States in a dominant fashion. The top seed even handed her opponent a 2nd set bagel. Graf set up a date with Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina in the tournament decider. World number 1 would again come on top in two straight sets with a 6-3, 6-3 score. She had thus become the 1st female tennis Gold medalist in the Open Era. Graf had a sensational run that year winning all 4 slams along with the Olympic Gold medal. This is famously known in tennis as the Golden Slam. It has never been achieved before or after that. She, thus, won WTA singles Olympic Gold medal.
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Jennifer Capriati: 1992 Barcelona Olympics
Steffi Graf was the top seed and defending champion in the tournament. She failed to defend her title against America’s Jennifer Capriati in the final. The 3rd seed beat Graf in the final to win the Gold medal for her home nation. Capriati won her 1st and 2nd round matches beating Elna Reinach of South Africa and Patricia Tarabini of Argentina without a set loss. She then went on to beat Yayuk Basuki of Indonesia and Anke Huber of Germany to reach the tournament semi-final.
The American had a tough semis match against the local favorite Arantxa Sanchez of Spain. The two exchanged 1st and 2nd set to get into a one-set shootout for a place in the final. In the deciding set, Capriati looked too good, beating her rival with a truly dominant display of 6-1. In the final, she faced her most worthy opponent in Steffi Graf who was determined to defend her title. Graf won the 1st set but Capriati would come back strongly to win the next 2 and cause a great upset. She then took home the much deserved Gold medal. She, thus, won WTA singles Olympic Gold medal.
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Lindsay Davenport: 1996 Atlanta Olympics
The 1996 Olympic Games were held in the United States. One home-grown hero Andre Agassi had already won the Gold medal for his country. He was joined by compatriot Lindsay Davenport who won the Gold in women’s singles category. The American starlet was seeded 9th in the tournament. After rushing through the early rounds she beat Iva Majoli of Croatia in the quarter-final contest. In the semis, she would beat fellow country-woman Mary Joe Fernandez.
Davenport met the 3rd seed, Arantxa Sanchez, from Spain in the tournament final. It was expected to be a very tight match and the 1st set even gave reflections of that when it needed a tight tie-breaker to end. In the 2nd set, Lindsay played with renewed confidence and vigor. She won it 6 games to 2 and thus gave her country a WTA singles Olympic Gold medal also. The Americans thus dominated the Olympics in 1996 in tennis. They won Gold medals in Men’s and Women’s singles and then also in the Women’s doubles.
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Venus Williams: 2000 Sydney Olympics
The 2000 women’s singles saw another American take home the Gold medal. It was the 2nd seeded Venus Williams who emerged as the champion in Australia. After cruising through the at the loss of just one set, Venus beat Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez in the thrilling 3 set quarter-final. She again played a very tight semi-final against the 3rd seeded Monica Seles. In the final, the elder Williams has an easy run against her Russian opponent Elena Dementieva in straight sets. She was now a Gold medalist in the Olympic Games. Venus also won another Gold Medal in the women’s doubles category that year. She was partnering with her sister Serena. She, thus, won both WTA doubles & WTA singles Olympic Gold medals.
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Justine Henin: 2004 Athens Olympics
The tennis matches in the 2004 Olympic Games were held on the hard courts. Justine Henin was the top seed. The strong Belgian baseliner did not lose a set till in the semi-finals. Here she was up against Russia’s Anastasia Myskina. The match was decided in 3 extremely competitive and hard-fought sets. In the last set, Henin broke Myskina in the closing stages and then booked a place in the tournament decider. In the final Henin had a pretty straight path to victory against Amelie Mauresmo in 2 straight sets. The Belgian had thus made her country proud in the tournament. She remained the last woman standing to lift the title. She, thus, won WTA singles Olympic Gold medal.
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Elena Dementieva: 2008 Beijing Olympics
In the 2008 Olympics held in China, tennis was played on indoor hard courts. Russian Elena Dementieva who had earlier won a silver medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics was seeded 5th. She went on to win the tournament and thus complete her elusive Gold Medal dream. Dementieva was looking good throughout the tournament as she beat Serena Williams in the quarter-finals after coming back from a set down. In the semis, she conquered fellow Russian star Vera Zvonareva.
In the tournament decider, another countrywoman Dinara Safina was waiting. Dementieva lost the 1st set but would again register a great comeback. She won the next 2 sets and thus got the much deserved Gold Medal. In the same tournament, the Silver and Bronze Medals were also won by Russian tennis players Dinara Safina and Vera Zvorneva respectively. It was a great achievement for Russian female tennis. So, this was how she won WTA singles Olympic Gold medal.
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Serena Williams: London 2012 Olympics
Serena Williams was seeded 4th in the event by in the form of her life. The American legend had already won Wimbledon a month prior on the same grass surface at the Centre Court. Serena powered her way through the early draw, even handing a bagel to her good friend German Caroline Wozniacki in the quarter-final match. She then scripted another dominant performance against Victoria Azarenka of Belarus to book a place in the tournament deciding match.
In the final Serena would meet her long-time archrival Maria Sharapova of Russia. The match brought back the memories of 2004 Wimbledon final where Sharapova had created a massive upset. Serena this time was in no mood of such drama. She thrashed Sharapova 6-0 and 6-1 to win the match and medal convincingly. Serena would then join her sister Venus to win the Gold Medal in the women’s doubles. The American flag flew high and so did the Williams name. She, thus, won WTA singles Olympic Gold medal.
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Monica Puig: 2016 Rio Olympics
The 2016 Rio Olympics saw one of the most surprising Women’s singles Gold Medal winners in tennis. Monica Puig of Puerto Rico who was not seeded in the tournament became the eventual champion. Puig looked in great form with no set loss till the semis match. She would beat Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in 3 sets, in a titanic semi-final clash.
In the final Monica met her most difficult opponent in 2nd seeded Angelique Kerber of Germany. The Puerto Rican was however determined to go all the way. She beat Kerber is another 3 set match and thus won the Gold Medal. It was the biggest success of Monica’s career. The right-hander has till now never been able to get into the top 20 of WTA singles rankings. She was also never able to go beyond the 4th round of a Grand Slam in singles so far in her career. She, though, won WTA singles Olympic Gold medal.
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