Tennis guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

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Your complete guide to tennis ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

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Converted: Two Wimbledons in one summer... count me in!

Confused: If it’s not a Grand Slam, who cares?

Tennis - The essential guide

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Street cred: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are among the biggest names at London 2012 but with the Olympics sandwiched between Wimbledon and the US Open, will they be bothered?   

Who’s good? Nadal is the reigning men’s champ, while the Williams sisters have won two of the last three women’s doubles golds.

Glory-hunting potential: As you might know, GB’s men have not come close to a singles medal of any colour for more than 100 years. There’s a chap called Andy Murray who wants to end that run.

The basics: Fifteen-love, 30-love… come on, you know this. Matches are three sets each, apart for the five-set men’s singles final and the mixed doubles, which is settled with a first-to-10 tie-break if they reach one set all.  

Athlete to watch: Sue Barker – London 2012 could well be her tennis-presenting swansong.

Almost useless fact: The origin of the term ‘love’ in tennis is disputed. Some say it comes from l’oeuf  (the French word for egg) because an egg looks like a zero. Others think this explanation is stupid, and that it refers to playing ‘for love’, as opposed to money.

As seen in: 'The Royal Tenenbaums', where Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) experiences a Wimbledon meltdown so thorough it makes Tim Henman looks like a man of Churchillian resolve.

Do say: ‘The indefinable magic of the All England Club will add some timely glamour to this increasingly maligned Olympic discipline.’

Don't say: ’Nadal Schmadal... where's Cliff Richard?'

British Olympic hopeful - Elena Baltacha

© Ashwin Patel

What would your advice be to someone taking up your career?

Work hard, believe in yourself and stick in there. I’m playing my best tennis now and I’m nearly 28, so I’m living proof that you can get there in the end.

What sacrifices have you had to make? Do you regret any?

I always say that everything happens for a reason so I don’t regret anything but I’ve definitely had difficult times. I was diagnosed with a serious liver condition when I was 19 and then I missed a year of tennis with back surgery, but both of those things made be stronger as a person and a player.

If the monarchy suddenly disbanded, which song would you want played at your gold-medal ceremony instead of the national anthem?

I don’t think I want the monarchy to be disbanded. I loved the Royal Wedding and I’ve met the Queen and the Duchess of Cornwall – both of them were really nice. If it happened I’d probably have 'Flower of Scotland' because I grew up there.

What's your favourite London spot?

I spent ten years living in Enfield and I still have a big soft spot for the place.

Who’s your Olympics crush?

I love watching Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro. Outside of tennis, some of the male swimmers have amazing bodies!

Several people start out in a sport, and then give up. What made you persist?

That’s a good question, especially because I’ve come very close to giving up – at one point I even had a coaching job lined up. I think I found the right coach (Nino Severino), who changed my mind-set and made me realise what was possible.

What is the most common misconception about your sport?

I don’t think some people understand quite how tough it is. They think you’re a failure if you’re not number one in the world. People wonder why Andy Murray hasn’t won a Grand Slam but he’s competing against players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, two of the best players of all time. It’s a bit harder than it looks!

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