When: This year's Olympic tennis event begins on Saturday, August 6th, one week after the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada. The gold medal women's doubles match will be played on Saturday, August 13th. The gold medal singles and mixed doubles matches will take place on Saturday, August 13th.
Where: Unlike the 2012 Olympics, where the tennis event was held at the All England Club, the tennis event in Rio takes place right in the heart of the Olympics. The event will take place on hardcourts at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Barra Olympic Park. The Centre Court seats 10,000, with nine secondary courts ranging in 250-5,000 in capacity.
Defending champions: 2012 London Olympics results.
Format: The women's singles event will be a 64-player draw. The women's doubles event is a 32-team draw and the Mixed Doubles will be a 16-team draw. Players are entitled to enter all three events if they qualify. There are no wildcards at the Olympics; however, several spots in the draw are awarded by the ITF and Tripartite Commission (see below).
Singles: Best of 3 tiebreak sets (Note: Men's final will be best of 5 tiebreak sets)
Doubles: Best of 3 tiebreak sets.
Mixed Doubles: Best of 3 sets (tiebreak in first 2 sets, match tiebreak in the third set).
No WTA ranking points will be offered.
To be eligible for the Olympics, a player must be part of the final Fed Cup team at the time of the draw and be present at the tie a minimum of three times in the four-year Olympic cycle. One of those ties must occur in either 2015 or 2016.
Alternatively, a player may be part of just two ties during the Olympic cycle, provided one of those ties occurred in 2015 or 2016, if she (a) reaches the milestone of 20 weeks in her Fed Cup career (Francesca Schiavone, Sam Stosur, and Daniela Hantuchova qualify for this exemption) or (b) if a nation plays a zone group round robin event for at least three of the four years in the current Olympic cycle, a player from that country only needs to be nominated twice. For example, Caroline Wozniacki has played just one tie for Denmark in the current Olympic cycle, which means she needs to play in Denmark's upcoming zonal tie to be eligible.
All athletes must be in good standing with their national tennis federation and the ITF. The ITF may also take into consideration the following special circumstances when determining a player's eligibility: (1) a player is injured or otherwise unable to compete in any authorized tennis tournament for a minimum of six months; (2) A player only reaches a ranking level sufficient for Fed Cup selection by her federation during the latter part of an Olympic cycle; or (3) A nation has a large number of highly-ranked players resulting in strict competition for selection, or its Fed Cup selection policy limits the opportunities for singles players.
Player Entry Rules:
Singles entry: The Top 56 eligible players will be entered as Direct Acceptances based on their WTA rankings on June 6th, 2016. This does not mean the main draw cut-off is at No.56. In the event a player ranked in the Top 56 is otherwise ineligible, the next highest-ranked player will earn main draw entry.
Six Qualification Entries - maximum of four singles, two doubles/mixed players per nation - will be allocated by the ITF according to the following priority ("Qualification System"): 1) host nation (if no Brazilian qualifies via direct acceptance, the top-ranked player will be entered), 2) Regional Representation (if one of the six ITF Regions has no representation, the highest-ranked player from that region will be entered if they are in the top 300), 3) Gold Medalist/Grand Slam Champion (a maximum of two singles gold medalists and Slam champions will be entered if they are ranked in the top 200), 4) Universality (if any places remain they will be allocated to the next best ranked player from a National Olympic Committee (NOC) that has no representation in that singles event).
The remaining two places will be allocated by the Tripartite Commission.
Doubles and Mixed Doubles entry: 24 doubles teams and 12 mixed doubles teams will qualify directly based on their combined rankings. To determine their combined ranking for the purposes of entry, each player may use the best of their singles or doubles ranking. An additional eight doubles teams and four mixed doubles teams will be given entry based on the ITF's Qualification System. Only players who have qualified for singles and/or doubles may participate in the mixed doubles tournament.
Automatic Top 10 Rule: Doubles players ranked in the Top 10 will earn direct entry so long as their partner has a recognized ranking, they are entered by their respective NOC, and their nomination does not bring the number of athletes for that NOC to more than 6 men/women.
For example, if Sania Mirza is still ranked in the top 10 on June 6th, she could choose any player from India as her doubles partner so long as they have a tour ranking and satisfy all other eligibility requirements. That's a powerful tool given India has no singles player ranked in the Top 300 and no doubles player ranked in the Top 250.
This rule does not apply to the mixed doubles competition. For mixed doubles, entry is determined solely by a team's combined ranking.
On Site Rule: In addition, any player entered in singles is automatically eligible for the doubles and mixed doubles events, though direct entry is not guaranteed.
National Team Composition:
A national team may consist of a maximum of six women per country, of which a maximum of four women may compete in singles, and a maximum of two doubles teams may compete in doubles.
If a country has more than four players eligible for direct acceptance into the singles event it must select its four highest-ranked eligible players based on the WTA rankings.
This rule impacts the heavily represented countries in the Top 50, including the United States (7 in the Top 60), Germany (7 in the Top 60), Czech Republic (5 in the Top 60), and Russia (5 in the Top 60). And that's with more players pushing up from behind. For these countries, the race to qualify doesn't just mean being Top 56, but being one of the top four players from your country. This is the race we'll be keeping an eye on over the next five months.
A maximum of two mixed doubles teams from any country may compete in the mixed doubles event.
All photos courtesy of Getty Images.