Get Involved: TENNIS

While there will always be question marks over the suitability of having such an overtly professional and monied sport as tennis in the Olympics, there can be no disputing the desire of the world's top players to participate.

Analysis

Andrew Castle, BBC Sport

"You are going to see tennis in a different light - you are going to see passion from the word go. Whereas perhaps people stay under control a little bit more in regular tournaments, in the Olympics I think they are going to lose it. When Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka won doubles gold for Switzerland in Beijing, Federer was weeping. Team GB will win more than one medal. Andy Murray can win gold in the men's singles and I think we might sneak another one as well. Keep an eye out for Laura Robson and Heather Watson in the women's doubles. In the men's, Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro is a huge hitter and loves representing his country. Similarly, when players are competing for the Spanish flag - witness Rafael Nadal, witness Euro 2012, witness the Davis Cup - they just go mad for it. So watch out for the likes of Anabel Medina Garrigues and Carla Suarez Navarro."

The likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Serena Williams are in the habit of picking up £1m+ for a Grand Slam win yet will be relishing doing battle in London for nothing more than a bit of metal on a ribbon and the prestige of being called an Olympic champion.

The presence of such household names means that tennis will be one of the most popular events with spectators and TV viewers - and even other competitors. Rafael Nadal was reportedly frequently mobbed by star-struck fellow Olympic Village dwellers in Beijing.

The fact that the Olympic tournament will be played at Wimbledon, the home of tennis, only serves to make the event even more special - and there will be another title up for grabs this year, with mixed doubles taking its place in the schedule.

The doubles is another reason to appreciate Olympic tennis as it offers the rare chance to see the top players playing the form of the game that weekend players are most familiar with - Federer is the reigning men's doubles champion along with his Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka.

Why is it good for you?

The stop-start bursts of speed over a prolonged period of time required when you play tennis are excellent for improving aerobic fitness, burning fat and strengthening the heart.

An hour's play is likely to see 544 calories spent; this is a higher number than spending the same time doing aerobics, inline skating, or cycling.

A Harvard University study also found that people who play tennis for three hours per week cut their risk of death in half from any cause compared to people who remain stationary.

Doubles games are an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people. Tennis clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.

As tennis is a low-impact sport which is not dependent on strength, people of all ages can play.

Get involved

Nearly a million people play tennis once a month in the UK in more than 23,000 tennis courts.

Can you compete?

Michael Johnson

Get your performance under pressure analysed in just 20 minutes by four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson

If you want to add to this figure, there are more than 500 venues across the country where you can play tennis for free  at any time.

Tennis clubs offer some access to tennis rackets and tennis balls for beginners, but a good quality second-hand racket can be picked up for as little as £20.

All else you will need to get started is some comfortable sports clothes and trainers.

If you become a member of your local tennis club, you will have easy access to tennis courts, training schemes and competitions. Membership fees often entitle people to reduced hire rates for tennis courts.

For people of all ages and abilities in the United Kingdom, the Lawn Tennis Association's Allplay scheme  is the best way to find places to play, people to play against and coaches to train you in your area.

The LTA even runs tennis-based fitness sessions called cardio tennis  for people wanting a more casual experience.

To find your local club, visit the Lawn Tennis Association,  Tennis Scotland,  Ulster Tennis  and Tennis Wales  websites.

More on the LTA website 

Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?

'Join In Local Sport'  aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on 18/19 August, 2012 - the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.

More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.

As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.

Find an event  near you.

The competition format at London 2012

Great Olympic moment

Tim Henman and Neil Broad

Tim Henman and Neil Broad's silver in the doubles at the Atlanta Games in 1996 was Great Britain's first Olympic tennis medal in 72 years

  • From Saturday 28 July to Sunday 5 August 172 athletes (86 men, 86 women) will compete at Wimbledon.
  • Each country is limited to a combined total of 12 athletes for all the competitions.
  • There will be five medal events, with mixed doubles making its first Olympics appearance since 1924.
  • Most matches will be the best of three sets.
  • The exceptions are the men's singles final (best of five sets) and all mixed doubles matches, decided by a first-to-10 tie-break if they reach one set all.
  • The tournament is run to a knockout format.
  • There are 16 seeded players in the singles, eight seeded teams in the doubles and four seeded teams in the mixed doubles. Seedings are based on the Association of Tennis Professionals  and Women's Tennis Association  rankings.

More on the London 2012 website 

The rules at London 2012

The objective in tennis is to hit the ball so your opponent cannot return it within the boundaries of the playing surface. Points can also be scored if your opponent double-faults their serve (if a serve does no go within the serve line twice in a row).

The first three points in a tennis game are scored 15, 30, and 40, with the fourth point securing the game. If the score is tied at 40-40, this is called deuce and two further points must be scored consecutively to secure the game.

Matches consist of sets, where-in the first person to win six games, with a two-game advantage, takes the set (can be 6-4 or 7-5). If a set is tied 6-6, the set goes into a tie-break to decide the winner of the set.

The men's singles competition is the best of three sets, with the four other Olympic competitions the best of three sets too.

If the final set in a men's and women's singles or doubles match is tied 6-6, the set goes into an advantage set where play goes on until an athlete wins at least six games and has a two-game advantage over their opponent.

In the mixed doubles, if the final set is tied 6-6, the athletes continue in match tie-break conditions, whereby the winner is the first to reach 10 points and is two points clear of their opponent.

The Hawk-Eye virtual-reality system will be used where available to judge whether a ball landed in or outside the lines of the court.

More on the Team GB website 

Ones to watch

It really is just like Wimbledon; a British summer, the All England Club grass, the home support, a nation expects… but can Andy Murray deliver?

Ross Hutchins and Colin Fleming could be dark horses in the men's doubles, and the mixed doubles is a bit of a lottery, which might help home hopes.

They might already be millionaire superstars but the world's elite tennis players are queuing up for a shot at Olympic gold.

Rafael Nadal is the defending men's champion but Roger Federer (who won doubles gold in 2008) would love to finish his Olympic career with gold on his beloved Wimbledon grass. Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are likely to go close in the women's singles.

History

While the modern game of tennis originated in late 19th century England, most historians believe the sport origins from a game played in 12th century France where players struck the ball with the palm of their hand.

Did you know?

The 88-year Olympic reign of Titanic survivor Dick Williams as mixed doubles champion will end this summer, with the event staged for the first time since he won gold with Hazel Wightman in 1924. Rescued from the icy Atlantic waters in 1912, American Williams insisted on walking every two hours to get the blood circulating in his frozen legs after a doctor advised amputation.

Between 1859 and 1865, the modern game was developed in Birmingham by Harry Gem and Augurio Perera. The duo combined elements of rackets and the Basque ball game pelota, and helped formed the world's first tennis club in 1872.

Five years later, the first organised tennis tournament was played at Wimbledon.

Some may begrudge tennis its slot in the Olympics, but it was held in the original modern Games in 1896 before political in-fighting led to the event being absent from 1928 until 1988.

In year of its return, Steffi Graf added the women's singles title to the four majors she claimed in the same year in what became known as her "Golden Slam".

As 1996 men's singles gold medallist Andre Agassi said: "The Olympics is the biggest thing you can do in all sports. To win a gold medal is what it's all about.

"I'll keep this over all of them. This is the greatest accomplishment I've ever had in sport."

More on the IOC website