There could be just two Canadians in the Olympic tennis event when it is played on the grass courts at Wimbledon in London this summer.
Only Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., ranked No. 27 in ATP singles, and Daniel Nestor of Toronto, co-No. 3 in doubles, are sure bets to be in the field when tennis starts July 28, the day after the opening ceremonies.
Entries for the 64 players in the singles events will be based on the ATP and WTA rankings after the French Open on June 11.
Currently No. 114 Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver as well as No. 86 Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., No. 91 Stephanie Dubois of Laval, Que., and No. 112 Rebecca Marino of Vancouver, are well outside the No. 56 cut-off for singles.
“It's really an amazing opportunity,” the 21-year-old Raonic said of the Olympics. “It's a rare one and it will be something brand new to me. It's going to be about representing myself well, representing Canada well, playing some good tennis and making the best of it.”
“Everyone gets excited about the Olympics,” said the 39-year-old Nestor, who won the gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games with Sebastien Lareau. “For sure it's going to be my last Olympics, so playing on grass and having had success at Wimbledon (doubles titles in 2008 and 2009) gives me hope with whoever I play with.”
Nestor's potential partner is a hot topic at the moment, with the options being Pospisil or Raonic. Olympic tennis rules specify that a player ranked in the top-10 in doubles, as Nestor will be on June 11, gets to choose his partner.
“They're both strong guys with big games and they've proven they're capable of playing good doubles,” Nestor said of Pospisil and Raonic without giving away who he prefers to play with.
Canadian Davis Cup team captain Martin Laurendeau of Montreal says the choice is up to Nestor.
“Daniel has already played four Olympics and won 77 ATP titles,” said Laurendeau. “He should decide who he will feel best with.”
As for Raonic, he said: “It's Daniel's decision. I feel like I can put together a good level but it's going to be about what he feels comfortable with. Hopefully it's me.”
Nestor would normally be expected to also play the mixed doubles, a new event this year. But there are only 16 teams: 12 direct entries and four wild cards.
There is a stipulation that all players must be on site and entered in either the singles and/or regular doubles events.
While Wozniak, Dubois and Marino will likely not be in either event, Nestor thinks there is a chance one of them could receive one of the six wild cards, or two invitations, awarded by the ITF and the International Olympic Committee for singles.
“I know they like to have as many countries as possible,” he said, “so there might be a Canadian woman in singles.”
The mixed doubles is widely viewed as an attempt by the IOC to jazz up the tennis event and make it more fan friendly by having men and women competing together.
Nestor is a skeptic, having concerns about the small 16-team draw size.
“It's not really a sport if people don't practise it,” he added. “In every other sport you can make the case that people get together and practise it full time. But in mixed you don't.
“That makes it more of an exhibition and then, all of a sudden, you get an Olympic medal for it.”
Although the 2012 tennis event is being played at Wimbledon, the traditional all-white dress code will not be in effect.
“I'll be wearing as much red as I can,” Nestor joked.