USTA Names Tokyo U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Tennis Teams

USTA Names Tokyo U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Tennis Teams


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., July 1, 2021 — The USTA, the governing body for the sport of tennis in the United States, made a historic announcement today when they jointly announced the 19 players that will represent the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Tennis Teams for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Japan.

The Olympic team will consist of 12 players – six women and six men – with four singles players and two doubles teams per gender. First-time Olympians Jennifer Brady, Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula and Alison Riske will compete in the women’s singles competition. In doubles, Nicole Melichar, also a first-time Olympian, will look to make her mark at the Games when she partners with Gauff. They will be joined by 2016 mixed doubles gold medalist Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who will partner with Pegula in the doubles draw. The women’s team will be led by coach Kathy Rinaldi (Orlando, Fla.). The men’s singles competition will see all four Americans making their Olympic debuts, as Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, Tennys Sandgren and Marcos Giron look to climb the podium. Rajeev Ram, the reigning mixed doubles silver medalist, will return to the Olympics for the doubles competition, this time partnering with Tiafoe. Austin Krajicek, a first time Olympian, will be teaming with Sandgren. The men will be led by coach David Nainkin (Los Angeles).

The USTA will announce at a later date the team(s) in mixed doubles – which will be contested at the Olympics for the third time since tennis returned to the Games in 1988 – composed from among the 12 players and named in Tokyo.

The 2020 Olympic Games will be held July 23-August 8 in Tokyo, with the tennis competition being staged July 24-August 1 at the Ariake Colosseum. The U.S. has won 24 Olympic medals (14 gold) in men’s and women’s tennis since it returned as a full medal sport in 1988 – more than any other nation.

The Paralympic team will consist of seven players that will look to bring home medals in the women’s, men’s and Quad events. Four-time Paralympian and eight-time Paralympic medalist David Wagner will lead the U.S. Paralympic Team into Tokyo. Wagner will look to claim a Quad medal for the fifth consecutive Games, with his current medal count including: Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, doubles (silver), singles (bronze); London 2012 Paralympic Games, doubles (gold), singles (silver); Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, doubles (gold), singles (bronze); and Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, doubles (gold), singles (silver).

Wagner will be joined again at the Paralympic Games by Paralympians Dana Mathewson, Emmy Kaiser and Shelby Baron in the women’s field and Bryan Barten in the Quad field. Casey Ratzlaff and Conner Stroud will be making their Paralympic debuts in the men’s field. The Paralympic team will be led by coach Jason Harnett (Orlando, Fla.).

The 2020 Paralympic Games will be held August 24-September 5 in Tokyo, with the tennis competition being staged August 27-September 4, also at the Ariake Colosseum. The U.S. will be one of 31 countries, represented by the 104 wheelchair tennis competitors from around the world. This year’s Paralympic Games mark the eighth time wheelchair tennis will be part of the competition, and the fifth time the Quad division will be included.

“The USTA is excited to make history by announcing the 19 athletes, including 12 first-time Olympians and Paralympians, to make up the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Tennis Team,” said Mike McNulty, USTA Chairman of the Board and President. “These athletes have worked extremely hard over the last five years to earn their spot to represent Team USA. We look forward to watching and rooting for them as they go for gold medals on the courts in Tokyo.”

All team nominations are subject to U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee approval.

Olympic Team

Jennifer Brady, 26, (Harrisburg, Pa./Orlando, Fla.), has been ranked as high as No. 13 in the world and is ranked No. 15 at the time of team nominations. Part of an NCAA title-winning team at UCLA, Brady has produced a number of breakthrough results on tour over the past year, including her first WTA singles title, in Lexington, Ky.; her first Grand Slam semifinal appearance, at the 2020 US Open; and her first appearance in a Grand Slam final, at the 2021 Australian Open.

Coco Gauff, 17, (Delray Beach, Fla.), is ranked a career-high No. 23 at the time of team nominations and is the only teenager in the WTA’s Top 25. Gauff has no shortage of achievements since she reached the Round of 16 in her Wimbledon debut as a 15-year old, becoming the youngest player to advance that far in 28 years. Since then she’s won two WTA singles titles, three WTA doubles titles and reached her first Grand Slam singles quarterfinal, at the 2021 French Open.

Marcos Giron, 27, (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), is ranked No. 66 at the time of team nominations, one spot off his career-high No. 65. Giron won the 2014 NCAA singles title while at UCLA and has since climbed his way up the rankings, winning two Challenger-level titles in 2019, earning his first career Top-10 win over Italian Matteo Berrettini in 2020 and reaching the third round at a major for the first time at Roland Garros this year. Giron has fought his way back to this point after undergoing two surgeries in December 2015 (right hip) and February 2016 (left hip) to fix two hip labral tears.

Austin Krajicek, 31, (Tampa, Fla./Plano, Texas), has been ranked as high as No. 35 in the world in doubles and is ranked No. 51 at the time of team nominations. He’s won four career ATP doubles titles, reached five additional finals, and was a four-year star at Texas A&M.

Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 36, (Rochester, Minn./Phoenix), is a former world doubles No. 1 and 2016 Rio Olympic gold medal winner in mixed doubles (with Jack Sock). Competing in her second consecutive Olympics, Mattek-Sands has won five Grand Slam doubles titles, four Grand Slam mixed doubles titles and 27 WTA doubles titles overall.

Nicole Melichar, 27, (Stuart, Fla.), is ranked a career-high No. 9 in the world in doubles and is the top-ranked American women’s doubles player. She’s won 10 career WTA doubles titles — two in 2021, at the time of team nominations — and reached 11 additional finals, including final appearances at the 2020 US Open and 2019 Wimbledon.

Tommy Paul, 24, (Voorhees, N.J./Delray Beach, Fla.), has been ranked as high as No. 50 in the world and is ranked No. 52 at the time of team nominations. Paul is a former junior star — he was just the sixth American to win the French Open boys’ singles title, in 2015 — and broke into the ATP’s Top 50 this spring after reaching his second career ATP singles semifinal, in Parma, Italy.

Jessica Pegula, 27, (Buffalo, N.Y.), has been ranked as high as No. 25 and is ranked No. 26 at the time of team nominations. Pegula is having a breakout year in 2021, having reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open and risen nearly 40 places in the rankings since January. She’s won one WTA singles title, reached two additional finals, and is the daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

Rajeev Ram, 37, (Denver/Carmel, Ind.), is a former world doubles No. 5 and 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalist in mixed doubles (with Venus Williams). Ranked No. 12 at the time of team nominations, Ram is competing in his second consecutive Olympics. He has won 20 career doubles titles, including the 2020 Australian Open and two additional ATP Masters 1000s, along with two mixed doubles titles at the 2019 and 2021 Australian Opens.

Alison Riske, 30, (Pittsburgh), is ranked No. 29 at the time of team nominations and has been ranked as high as No. 18. Riske has won two WTA singles titles, reached seven additional finals and has finished four different seasons ranked in the Top 50. She’s reached the Round of 16 or better at three of the four Grand Slams, including a career-best quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon in 2019.

Tennys Sandgren, 29, (Gallatin, Tenn.), has been ranked as high as No. 41 in the world and is ranked No. 68 at the time of team nominations. An All-American at the University of Tennessee (and named after his great-grandfather, who was not a tennis player), Sandgren is a two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist (2018, 2020) and won his first ATP singles title in 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Frances Tiafoe, 23, (Hyattsville, Md./Boynton Beach, Fla.), has been ranked as high as No. 29 and is ranked No. 57 at the time of team nominations. Long considered one of the game’s rising stars, Tiafoe won his first ATP singles title at age 20 in Delray Beach and reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the 2019 Australian Open, becoming the youngest American to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Andy Roddick in 2003 (Wimbledon).

Paralympic Team

Shelby Baron, 25, (Honolulu), ranked No. 34 at the time of team nominations, will be competing in her second Paralympic Games (Rio 2016). Baron was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that has resulted in weakness in her legs. Until the third grade, she walked around school with crutches and sat out of most PE activities. When she was nine years old, an adaptive PE specialist with the Department of Education introduced her to a wheelchair. This allowed her to participate in most sports along with her classmates. After a couple of years, Shelby joined a U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) junior team with able-bodied players and ultimately competed alongside her teammates on her high school team. Shelby attended the University of Alabama on a wheelchair tennis scholarship, achieving her undergraduate degree in communicative disorders and a graduate degree in speech-language pathology. She currently is the Volunteer Assistant for the collegiate wheelchair tennis program at Alabama. Baron is also a member of the USTA National Wheelchair Tennis Committee as the sub-chairperson for the Collegiate Wheelchair Tennis sub-committee.

Bryan Barten, 47 (Tucson, Ariz.), ranked No. 11 at the time of team nominations, will be competing in his third Paralympic Games. His best result to date is a quarterfinal run at the 2012 London Summer Paralympics. Barten doesn’t remember holding a racket before being injured in an April 1995 car crash, where he injured his spinal cord. After his rehabilitation, he tried a few adaptive sports, including tennis, playing in his first wheelchair tennis tournament in 1998. With this newfound love, Barten decided to change his path and focus on collegiate-level tennis, transferring to the University of Arizona. After narrowly missing the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, he briefly retired, but returned to training and ultimately made the London 2012 Paralympic Team. Barten earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Arizona and now coaches wheelchair tennis and wheelchair rugby at the University of Arizona.

Emmy Kaiser, 31, (Cincinnati/Ft. Mitchell, Ky.), ranked No. 27, is a two-time Paralympian (2012, 2016) and was born with spina bifida. At the age of 5, she found her calling in wheelchair tennis when organizers at a local wheelchair tennis exhibition handed her a tennis racquet. She is a 2011 Parapan American Games gold medalist in doubles and silver medalist in singles. In 2016 Kaiser was named Player of the Year by the International Tennis Federation and in 2017 she was inducted into the Northern Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame. Kaiser has been a stalwart member of the BNP Paribas World Team Cup Women’s Team. She has an undergraduate degree in psychology, and a graduate degree in exercise and sport psychology. Emmy is currently a PTR-certified teaching professional and Director of Wheelchair and Adaptive Tennis at the Cincinnati Tennis Foundation.

Dana Mathewson, 30, (San Diego/Orlando, Fla.), is ranked No. 10 at the time of team nominations, one spot off her career high. At age 10, Mathewson contracted a rare neurological disease known as Transverse Myelitis, which causes the immune system to attack the spinal cord at a certain level. She went from running sprints on the soccer field to being paralyzed in a matter of minutes. Mathewson’s mother urged her to play adaptive sports and she soon signed up for a USTA junior tennis camp. She also competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, has represented the U.S. in the BNP Paribas World Team Cup nine times, and has been the top-ranked female in the USA for a number of years. When Mathewson retires from tennis, she hopes to become a pediatric audiologist — after recently completing her master’s degree in Audiology at University College in London — and is currently working on her clinical doctorate.

Casey Ratzlaff, 22, (Wichita, Kan.), ranked No. 22 at the time of nominations, will be making his Paralympic debut. Ratzlaff is a 2020 graduate from Wichita State University with a degree in sports management. Since making his debut in the men’s division of the UNIQLO/ITF World Tennis Tour’s international rankings in 2015, Ratzlaff, born with spina bifida, has done nothing but improve. Ranked at world No. 165 to end 2015, he finished each of the next three years in the Top 50, with a year-end ranking increase each year, before ending 2019 at No. 20. Ratzlaff made his Grand Slam debut in 2020 at the US Open as a wild-card entrant. Ratzlaff was a member of back-to-back BNP Paribas World Team Cup Junior Championship teams in 2015 and 2016.

Conner Stroud, 21, (Rutherfordton, N.C.), ranked No. 50 at the time of nominations, will be making his Paralympic debut. Stroud was born with proximal focal femoral deficiency, one main leg bone for each leg. That was not about to stop him as he worked his way to be the No. 1-ranked junior in the world. He is also a three-time Junior BNP Paribas World Team Cup champion. Stroud is now a member of the men’s team representing at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup competition.

David Wagner, 47, (Hillsboro, Ore./San Diego), ranked No. 4 at the time of team nominations, will be competing in his fifth Paralympic Games. Wagner has won more than a dozen Grand Slam titles in his illustrious career. Wagner suffered a spinal cord injury in 1995 after breaking his neck in an accident on the beach which left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down, retaining only 30 percent of the feeling in his hands, therefore categorizing him as a quadriplegic. After he took up table tennis as part of his rehabilitation efforts, Wagner picked up a tennis racquet in 1999 and soon began to compete competitively. By 2003, he became the No. 1-ranked Quad wheelchair tennis player in the world and has held the No. 1 ranking several times in his career. Wagner is a member of nine BNP Paribas World Team Cup Championship teams. He loves cheering on the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners and is hoping that the fifth time will be the charm for him to capture the illustrious singles gold medal – one of the few items missing from his trophy cabinet.

Team USA has won a total of 15 Paralympic Games tennis medals, including at least one medal in each of the six Games.

Tennis was part of the Olympic program from the first modern Olympiad in 1896 until 1924. After a 64-year hiatus, tennis returned to the official Olympic program in 1988, becoming the first sport to feature professional athletes.

Venus and Serena Williams are the last American women to win Olympic gold in tennis, with Serena winning the singles gold medal and Serena and Venus capturing the gold in women’s doubles at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Bob and Mike Bryan also won gold in men’s doubles in 2012. Andre Agassi was the last American man to win Olympic gold in men’s singles, when he defeated Spain’s Sergi Bruguera in the gold medal match at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The U.S. won gold in mixed doubles in Rio in 2016, its first in the competition since 1988.

 

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