Rio 2016: Tennis ones to watch

A star-studded line-up is confirmed at Rio’s Olympic Tennis Centre in August, and includes defending champions, rising stars and novelty doubles pairings. Sam Price profiles some of the leading medal contenders

The man in form

Defending Olympic champion Andy Murray is the man to beat approaching Rio 2016. He has played some of his best-ever tennis this year and recently won a second Wimbledon title and third Grand Slam in a tournament that saw his chief rival for singles gold in Rio, Novak Djokovic, crash out in the third round. Murray relished being part of Team GB in London four years ago, and he and his brother Jamie – who teamed up to such good effect in Great Britain’s 2015 Davis Cup success – will be strong contenders for men’s doubles gold.

Family affair

Serena Williams made history at Wimbledon to draw level with Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles, but she hasn’t done badly on the Olympic stage either, and bids for a ‘double double’ in Rio following her pair of golds at London 2012. In the doubles event, Serena and her sister Venus will be chasing an incredible fourth Olympic title.

Lady in waiting

Serena, now 34, may yet have a few more years at the top of the women’s game, but a formidable threat has emerged in the shape of Garbiñe Muguruza. The 22-year-old possesses an exciting, aggressive playing style and overpowered Serena to claim a maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros earlier this year. The Venezuelan-born star will represent Spain in Rio, and can look forward to potential doubles partnerships with Carla Suarez Navarro and 2008 gold medallist Rafael Nadal.

The home guard

Brazilian players will be able to count on vociferous support at the Games, and the host country has medal hopes in men’s doubles pairing Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. Both are former Grand Slam winners (albeit with different partners) and figure in the top 10 of the world doubles rankings, while the advantage of some extra practice on the new hard courts of the Olympic Tennis Centre should make the Brazilians a match for anyone.

Second chance

Twenty years after her Olympic debut in Atlanta at the age of 15, Martina Hingis is returning to the Olympic stage in Rio. The former Swiss prodigy won five Grand Slam singles titles in the late 1990s, and has reached top rank with India’s Sania Mirza in doubles since coming out of retirement in 2014. While tennis fans have been denied the chance to see Hingis and Roger Federer in the mixed doubles following the latter’s withdrawal through injury, she will have high hopes of success in the women’s event where she partners world no. 15 Timea Bacsinszky.