What’s your favourite sport at the Olympics? After reading this, it will definitely be tennis.
As Rio draws ever closer, we’re taking a look at each of the Olympic sports in turn. This week, we’re going down to the tennis court.
1. Miroslav Mecir, a surprise winner of the gold medal in Seoul in 1988, had a gift for winding up top players with his unerringly consistent style and deadpan sense of humour.
Canada’s Glenn Michibata described playing Mecir as “like bleeding to death”. Ivan Lendl had more choice words after Mecir made fun of the taciturn Czech’s tidy-towel fetish during a match in Key Biscayne in the late 1980s.
2. The tennis event at the 1896 Games in Athens was marred by a lack of entries.
— Team GB (@TeamGB) September 4, 2014
Gold went to an Irishman, John Boland, who happened to be on holiday in Greece at the time and was coerced into entering despite having little experience of the game. Bronze was shared by Momcsillo Tapavicza, a Serbian wrestler and weightlifter, and an Australian middle-distance runner, Teddy Flack, both of whom had also been included to make up the numbers.
3. A different form of tennis, jeu de paume, made its only appearance in the Olympics in 1908.
Literally translated as “game of the palm”, it was generally played indoors and has its closest modern equivalent in real tennis. The gold medal was won by American Jay Gould, the great-great uncle of 2012 US cycling representative Georgia Gould. And if you’re wondering – yes, that is Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell playing jeu de paume in the picture. And no, we have no idea why.
4. As Olympic tennis prepares to head to Brazil, it is worth noting that Vanessa Menga holds the proud record of being the only Brazilian female tennis player to represent her country in two different Games.
Menga can also boast of being the first professional tennis player to pose for Playboy, having bared just-about all for the magazine in 2001. Menga won no titles and reached a career-high singles ranking of 163, though it is unlikely those will be the statistics she is chiefly remembered for.
5. Goran Ivanisevic provided a timely antidote to all those who questioned tennis’ status as an Olympic sport in 1992.
Ivanisevic, a proud Croatian patriot, had led his nation in the opening ceremony and won two bronze medals, the latter in doubles with his compatriot Goran Prpic. Ivanisevic said: “It’s great to win a medal. It’s like Wimbledon but when I play Wimbledon, it’s for myself. Here, it is for my country.”