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On a rather well-known auction website you can get a commemorative Atlanta 1996 envelope, signed by Tim Henman and Neil Broad, for 99 pence (or £1.70 if you're going to have it posted... is that a faux pas with commemorative envelopes?).

If you want something signed by top tennis star Andy Roddick, you'll be paying a good deal more than a pound. And that's not the only difference in values the trio share.

For Broad, the '96 Games were the defining moment in his tennis career - he and Henman picked up silver in the men's doubles tennis.

Henman was there again in Athens four years ago, but our tennis correspondent Jonathan Overend says his reaction to his first-round defeat against Jiri Novak spoke volumes for the way pro tennis players view the Olympics.

Tim Henman competing at Athens 2004

"The usual cliches, the usual grasp for the positives," observed Overend. "Henman interviews were always sung from the hymnsheets appropriate to the results.

"But that day in Greece, everyone wanted a little more. The interview followed a swimmer crying into the microphone, and the contrast couldn't have been greater."

At least Henman turned up. Broad says playing in Atlanta put right a decision he made before the Barcelona Games.

Broad says Atlanta was "definitely the highlight of my career. I pulled out of the 1992 Olympics then regretted that decision for the next four years."

So will Roddick live to regret announcing he won't compete in Beijing? Earlier this year he said Athens had been "an honour ... that being said, I'll maybe let one of the other guys have the experience."

The obvious conclusion - and you hardly need Roddick to spell this out - is that the best tennis players don't see the Olympics as the pinnacle of their sport.

And why should they? The same applies to football (where rules governing age try to give the competition a unique selling point, knowing it can never hold a candle to the World Cup), and amateur boxers use the Games as a stepping stone to a professional career.

Athletes, on the other hand, drive themselves forward using the motivation of an Olympic medal. A world championship gold is nice to have, but if you're beaten to the line in the Olympic arena, all is lost.

Different sports see the Games in different ways. Tennis players, in a year where Beijing is playing havoc with their schedule, clearly see the Olympics as a pleasant distraction at best, and an unnecessary hassle at worst.

So is it time organisers took this on board and quietly dropped tennis from the list of Olympic sports? It's hard to see many tennis players complaining if it happened, and would fans of the sport lose out? Probably not.

And if that happened, which sports should come in? Why isn't lacrosse in the Olympic movement, for example? Should tug-of-war make a comeback? If you're British and approaching this from the point of view of medals we can win, be careful what you wish for here. After all, we've had since 1972 to work on our Olympic handball...

Download the BBC's Olympics podcast from Friday afternoon to hear the latest edition, in which Mark Saggers leads the debate on the future of tennis at the Games. Then start preparing your "Murray brothers" flags in readiness for Henman Hill in 2012...

Ollie Williams is a BBC Sport journalist. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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