By Audraine Jackson
Atlanta, GA USA – The US Olympic tennis menâ€™s singles team was introduced to a cheering audience at the BB&T Atlanta Open by tournament director Bob Bryant prior to the featured match between John Isner and Ruben Bemelmans. The introduction was preceded by a video montage highlighting American accomplishments in previous Olympic games including the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympics held a few miles south of the venue location.
The event is the last tournament before the 2012 Olympics in London, July 28 – August 5, hosting 12 participants from a variety of countries. Jay Berger, Team USA tennis coach was on hand as part of the introduction. Berger has been the USTA Player Development Head of Menâ€™s Tennis since 2008. The crowd applauded and cheered in a standing ovation for Atlanta native Donald Young who was named first, followed by Ryan Harrison and University of Georgiaâ€™s John Isner. Fourth team member Andy Roddick who is also part of the tournament was not present at the introduction. 1984 Olympian and Atlanta native Evander Holyfield joined the lineup on court as the crowd chanted â€œUSA, USAâ€ while waving Team USA flags.
Coach Berger, who has spent the week in Atlanta talked about the exciting opportunity for the team and helping players manage the distractions that may come along with a world staged event.Â â€œThe Olympics are just an incredible event overall. To participate in China was amazing and to be able to go over there and hopefully help these guys be able to win medals is something I will really cherish the rest of my life and hopefully I will be able to make a difference in how we do over there.â€ He says he will help players try to balance out the Olympic experience keeping them focused on the main goal while understanding the importance of non-tennis events like the Opening Ceremonies and the atmosphere of the Olympic Village along with any logistical barriers.
The tennis competition will be staged at the grass courts at Wimbledon. Young, Harrison and Isner will be making their Olympic debut while Roddick will make his second appearance. 2008 Bronze medalists Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan will return in doubles. Isner and Roddick, who have never teamed before, will round out the menâ€™s US doubles. On the womenâ€™s side, undefeated two-time gold medalist Serena Williams will represent the US in singles along with her sister, three time gold medalist Venus Williams, Christina McHale and Varvara Lepchenko. The worldâ€™s number 1 doubles team of Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond will compete along with the Williams sisters who are undefeated in Olympic doubles seeking to gain their third gold medal since 2008.
The US has taken home 17 Olympic medals in previous years in menâ€™s and womenâ€™s tennis, more than any other nation. Andre Agassi is the last American male to win Olympic gold in menâ€™s singles when he defeated Spainâ€™s Sergi Bruguera in Atlanta in â€™96. The last gold in doubles for the US was won by Ken Flach and Robert Seguso when they defeated Spainâ€™s Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez at the 1998 Seoul games.
Audraine Jackson is covering the BB&T Atlanta Open for Tennis Panorama News July 14-22, 2012. Audraine is a sports blogger, digital journalist and tennis addict. Follow her live updates on @tennisnewsTPN and personal twitter account @atlstoryteller.