The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 run July 24-Aug. 9, 2020, and while they may be nearly 20 months away there’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Each Tuesday leading up to the Games, TeamUSA.org will present a nugget you should read about – from athletes to watch to storylines to follow to Japanese culture and landmarks – as part of “Tokyo 2020 Tuesday.” Follow along on social media with the hashtag #Tokyo2020Tuesday.
No country has won more Olympic medals in tennis than Team USA since the sport was reinstated as a medal event in 1988. With 24 medals since then, including 14 golds, the U.S. is hoping to once again be the nation to beat at the Ariake Tennis Park at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The U.S. talent field is extremely deep — so much so that it is represented by 31 players at the Australian Open this week, twice as many players as any other country except for Australia and Spain.
Here’s a look at the top Team USA tennis players to watch on the road to Tokyo, all of whom are competing at the Australian Open that began Monday.
Serena Williams waves to the crowd at the US Open on Sept. 6, 2018 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
Serena Williams has been one of the most talked about athletes in world over the last year and will begin her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam women’s singles title this week in Melbourne. Currently ranked No. 16 in the world, she’s a three-time gold medalist in doubles with her sister, Venus Williams, and won a singles gold medal at the Olympic Games London 2012. Her last Grand Slam victory came at the Australian Open two years ago while she was eight weeks pregnant, and she’s reached two Grand Slam finals since coming back from her 14-month maternity leave. Venus, aiming to qualify for her sixth Olympics at age 40, won Olympic singles gold back in Sydney in 2000 and mixed doubles silver in 2016, and has medaled in all but one Olympics in which she’s competed. With four gold medals apiece, the sisters have won more Olympic golds in tennis than any other American. If Venus makes it to Tokyo, she’d be the first tennis player, male or female, to compete at six Olympics, and with another medal would break the record she currently shares with Great Britain’s Kathleen McKane Godfree.
The top-ranked American at this week’s Australian Open, world No. 5 Sloane Stephens, made her Olympic debut three years in ago in Rio. The 2017 US Open champion has no shortage of talent but is still searching for consistency from tournament to tournament at 25 years old. She lost in the first round of singles at the Rio Games in 2016 and has suffered three straight opening-round exits at the Australian Open, but last fall she showcased her potential with fine footwork and immaculate ball-striking in another semifinal appearance at the US Open.
Madison Keys just missed the podium in her Olympic debut in Rio at age 21, finishing fourth in women’s singles. Now No. 17 in the world and with one of the game’s best serves, Keys has advanced to the last two US Open semifinals, and last year reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and semifinals of the French Open. Just last month, she hired a new coach, Jim Madrigal, who last year guided Tennys Sandgren on his run to the Australian Open quarterfinals.
John Isner competes at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships on July 13, 2018 in London.
In 2016, John Isner opted to skip the Olympics in favor of focusing on the American hard-court season. At 6-foot-10, Isner is now the top-ranked American men’s tennis player in the world at No. 10 and is peaking in his career. Last year, he reached the semifinals at Wimbledon and quarterfinals at the US Open, and won his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. Isner previously competed for Team USA at the 2012 Olympics, losing to Roger Federer in the men’s singles quarterfinals.
Steve Johnson, who won Olympic bronze in the Rio men’s doubles tournament with Jack Sock, was the next highest American seed at this week’s Australian Open and is No. 33 in the world. He is the most-decorated collegiate player ever and won two ATP titles last year. In 2019, he’ll be looking to make it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time. Sock, meanwhile, who also won a gold in mixed doubles at Rio 2016 with Bethanie Mattek-Sands, has plummeted from No. 8 in the world to No. 105 in the last year after a 9-21 record on the ATP Tour. He was the only tennis player in Rio to win two medals.
Frances Tiafoe, turning 21 next week, could potentially make his Olympic debut in Tokyo and is the fourth-youngest player in the ATP Top 50. The son of Sierra Leonean immigrants who spent many of his childhood nights sleeping on the floor of a spare office, Tiafoe had a breakthrough 2018, winning his first ATP title at the Delray Beach Open and going on to make the third round at Wimbledon and second round at the US Open.
Big-serving Sam Querrey, who represented Team USA in singles at the 2008 Olympics, is a dark-horse contender for both the Australian Open and Tokyo 2020. Two years ago, he made the Wimbledon semifinals and US Open quarterfinals and will look to repeat that success in the near future.
Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.