Coco Gauff, 17-year-old, leads US tennis team at Tokyo Olympic Games

In a changing of the guard, 17-year-old Coco Gauff leads the 12-man U.S. tennis team into the following month’s Tokyo Olympic Games, which will check the first Olympics in quite a while without Serena and Venus Williams. Moreover, seven were named to the U.S. Paralympic tennis crew on Thursday.

Joining Gauff in Tokyo will be Jennifer Brady, Jessica Pegula and Alison Riske in women’s singles, and men’s singles players Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, Tennys Sandgren and Marcos Giron.

The women’s doubles teams will consist of Gauff and Nicole Melichar, and Pegula and Bethanie Mattek-Sands. For the men, Tiafoe will join forces with Rajeev Ram, and Sandgren is combined with Austin Krajicek.

Mixed doubles teams will be named later utilizing similar pool of players.

Likewise, eight-time Paralympic medalist David Wagner leads a team consisting of individual quad player Bryan Barten, returning Paralympians Dana Mathewson, Emmy Kaiser and Shelby Baron in women’s, and Casey Ratzlaff and Conner Stroud in men’s. The Paralympic Games start Aug. 24.

Brady, the 2021 Australian Open runner-up, is the highest level American at No. 15 in the WTA rankings, followed by Gauff and No. 23, Pegula at No. 26 and Riske at No. 29.

Paul leads the men at No. 52. Tiafoe is next at No. 57, trailed by Giron at No. 66 and Sandgren at No. 68.

The solitary two returning Olympians, Mattek-Sands and Ram, are both 2016 medalists, with the previous winning gold in blended copies and the last taking silver in mixed doubles.

Gauff has been one of the sport’s sensations as of late, having effectively arrived at the third round at all four Grand Slams and the quarterfinals of the current year’s French Open. Tiafoe, 23, is falling off an irritated win over No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the first round at Wimbledon recently.

Wagner will contend in his fifth Paralympics in the quad field, having won medals in every one of the past four. In Rio in 2016, he won a silver medal in doubles and bronze medal in singles.

A few of the top-ranked Americans quit the Olympic tournament, many citing to schedule conflicts, worries over COVID-19 protocols or injuries. The Olympic competition starts July 24, under about fourteen days after Wimbledon.

“It’s going to be a different Olympics from years past; it’s going to take away from it,” Giron told the Associated Press. “That being said, I feel like, as an athlete, I have to go at least once. So when I got the option, I absolutely jumped on it.”

The U.S. has won 39 medals, a record 21 of them gold, in Olympic tennis, driven by the Williams sisters, who each have four gold medals since making their Olympic debuts in 2000. They won three gold awards together, with Serena winning singles gold in 2012 and Venus winning singles gold in 2000 and blended pairs silver with Ram in 2016. That makes Venus Williams the most enriched Olympic tennis player.

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