Previewing the Olympics
Two legendary champions, Maria Esther Bueno and Pat Cash, met up in Sao Paulo earlier this week to film an Olympic Games preview for CNN at Sociade Harmonia de Tenis.The feature will appear on Pat Cash’s weekly Open Court program.
“CNN flew in from Rio [de Janeiro] for the day with a crew of ten people, including Pat [Cash], and the producer, Heidi Berger.” she told her website.
“They filmed Pat and I having a hit on the stadium court and talking about the Olympics. It took several hours!
“We started working on this feature during Wimbledon where we also did a couple of hours of filming so it will be interesting to see what comes out of it all.”
Maria Esther Bueno is a Brazilian icon, winner of 19 Grand Slam titles and an Ambassador for both Rio 2016 and the Olympic Torch Relay.
Pat Cash won the Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon in 1987, and also reached the Australian Open final in 1987 and 1988. He won 6 singles titles on the ATP Tour and reached a career-high singles ranking of World No 4 in May 1988.
He now hosts CNN’s tennis news programme, Open Court, that can be viewed by clicking HERE.
Looking to Olympic Tennis
The Olympic Tennis Event starts on 6 August at the Maria Esther Bueno Tennis Centre in the Olympic Park at Barra, and has men’s and women’s singles events, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.
Matches are best of three sets with a tiebreak at 6 games all.
Built for the Rio 2016 Games, the Olympic Tennis Centre features 16 courts, some of them temporary.
The centre court, named after Maria Esther in December, and its facilities are permanent and will be one of the Game’s biggest sporting legacies.
The list of final acceptances was published by the ITF last week but, sadly, three top players have pulled out because of the Zika virus.
Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic, world number eight Tomas Berdych and women’s number five Simona Halep announced their withdrawal on Thursday.
Raonic, who lost in straight sets to Britain’s Andy Murray in his first Grand Slam final last weekend, would have been viewed as a major medal hope for the Canadian team heading into the Games but the 25-year-old has now stated he will not participate in the men’s singles competition, which will feature 64 players, as well as the doubles events.
“After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am making this decision for a variety of health concerns including the uncertainty around the Zika virus,” Raonic said.
“This was a difficult, personal choice and I do not wish for it to impact the decision of any other athlete heading to the Games.”
Similarly, Romania’s tennis star Halep, a French Open finalist in 2014, and Berdych, have also pulled out of competing in Rio.
The withdrawals make the trio the first tennis players to formally declare that fears of Zika are behind their decisions not to compete.
The virus, which is spread by mosquitos, has a proven link to birth defect microcephaly, which causes babies to be born with small heads and under-developed brains, and pregnant women have been advised not to travel to Brazil.
Golf has been the most affected sport by withdrawals, with all of the top four ranked men’s players in the world – Jason Day of Australia, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth of the United States and Ireland’s Rory McIlroy – pulling out.
Many have claimed, however, that athletes are using Zika as an excuse to pull out of Rio, with an Olympic Gold not as prestigious as other major prizes in sports such as golf and tennis.
“I think it is a real pity, for those who will miss the experience of Rio 2016, and for those who would have enjoyed watching them play,” said Maria Esther.
“So much is being done to minimise the threat of Zika in Rio, besides which, mosquitos are all around the world, not only here, and people have to protect against the diseases they carry. It is no different here.
“Zika is all around the world too so why be afraid of coming to Brazil? It’s a real shame!”
There was good news too, last week, with Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki and Spain’s Rafael Nadal both confirmed as playing at the Games after their participation had initially been placed at risk.
Wozniacki had failed to qualify after not appearing in three Fed Cup competitions during the Olympic qualification period, but the 25-year-old, who is set to be her country’s flag bearer at the Games, has won an appeal to compete.
Nadal had also looked set to miss out on Rio, but the Beijing 2008 men’s singles gold medallist has been cleared to play despite failing to appear in the required number of Davis Cup ties.
He has also recovered sufficiently from a wrist injury which ended his French Open and Wimbledon hopes to take up his place in the Spanish team.
“I am happy for them both, especially Rafa because he missed competing at London 2012 because of injury,” added Maria Esther. “Here we have two players who are desperate to take part.
“Rafa, of course, was here in February for the Rio Open, and knows tall about using protection against mosquito bites!”
Britain’s Andy Murray and USA’s Serena Williams will begin as the defending men’s and women’s singles champions in the singles events.
“I think there is a real chance they could both win Gold again!” concludes Maria Esther.