The U.S. Olympic tennis team will head to Tokyo this month without some of its usual star power, propelling 17-year-old Coco Gauff into a leading role.
Serena Williams and Sofia Kenin, the top-two ranked women in the U.S., both opted against competing in this year’s Olympics. The country’s top-four ranked men also decided not to participate.
Gauff, who was ranked No. 23 in the world before she beat Elena Vesnina in the second round of Wimbledon on Thursday, will become the youngest tennis player to compete at the Olympics since 1992, when a 16-year-old Jennifer Capriati won gold.
Gauff will be joined in the women’s single tournament by Americans Jessica Pegula, Alison Riske and Jennifer Brady — who was the runner-up at the 2021 Australian Open.
Without the top four men, No. 52 Tommy Paul, No. 57 Frances Tiafoe, No. 66 Marcos Giron and No. 68 Tennys Sandgren will play for the U.S. in the men’s singles bracket. Tiafoe beat No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas on Monday at Wimbledon, and he’ll compete in the third round Friday.
No. 8-ranked Williams opted out after she hurt her leg during her match Tuesday. Williams has won four Olympic gold medals in her career — one in women’s singles and three alongside her sister, Venus, in the double’s competition.
Kenin, ranked No. 6 in the world, won the Australian Open and finished second at the French Open in 2020. Kenin lost in the second round at Wimbledon on Wednesday to Madison Brengle, and she announced she wouldn’t feature in the Olympics.
“That was a difficult decision, but I spoke and discussed that with my agents,” Kenin said after the match, via the Associated Press. “I couldn’t take anyone with me, and I definitely wanted to have someone. Of course, I love the Olympics. It was a tough one, like I said.”
The International Tennis Federation noted that “entry lists are still subject to change,” but there are plenty of other star names included in the Olympics. No. 1-ranked Ash Barty of Australia and No. 2 Naomi Osaka of Japan will headline the women’s singles competition. On the men’s singles side, No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia and No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia will compete, as well as No. 8 Roger Federer of Switzerland, among others.