Four Kastles Playing Olympics
Leander Paes proudly wears his 1996 Olympic bronze medal.
On Tuesday, the International Tennis Federation made official what the Washington Kastles reported on June 6th: Four of the six members of the 2012 Kastles will be competing at the London Olympic Games!
Venus and Serena Williams of the USA, Anastasia Rodionova of Australia and Leander Paes of India will go for gold on the grounds of Wimbledon beginning July 28th after leading the Kastles in their quest for a third World TeamTennis title since 2009.
For the Kastles' captain Paes, it will be his sixth appearance at the Olympic Games -- an all-time record among Asian athletes. The Olympics run in the Paes family as Leander's parents, Vece and Jennifer, represented India in field hockey and basketball respectively at Munich in 1972.
Paes, himself, has fond memories of the Olympics, winning the singles bronze medal at Atlanta in 1996 and carrying the Indian flag during the opening ceremony at Sydney in 2000.
The two-time WTT Male MVP has played in the men's doubles event every four years since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, coming as close to a medal as the Athens semifinals in 2004. After making his Olympic debut 20 years ago alongside Ramesh Krishnan, Paes has played each of the last four Olympics with current World No. 15 Mahesh Bhupathi.
This time around, the All India Tennis Association nominated the seventh-ranked Paes to play with 24-year-old Vishnu Vardhan, a big server who has reached career-high rankings in singles and doubles on the ATP World Tour this season.
At the 2010 Asian Games, Vardhan earned the silver medal in mixed doubles with Sania Mirza, who is expected to serve as Paes' mixed partner in London.
Anastasia Rodionova hopes to build off her Commonwealth Games success.
While Paes readies for a return to familiar territory, Anastasia Rodionova eagerly awaits her Olympic debut, calling her nomination the "best news ever" on Twitter.
Less than a year after becoming an Australian citizen, Rodionova represented her new nation superbly at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, where she defeated Mirza to win the gold medal in singles. The Russian-born Rodionova also added gold in women's doubles and silver in mixed doubles.
Rodionova, ranked 19th in the world, will team with Jarmila Gajdosova in women's doubles at this year's Olympics. Like Rodionova, Gajdosova gained Australian citizenship in 2009, having previously represented her native Slovakia.
In their third tournament together, the adopted Aussies won three matches to reach the quarterfinals at the French Open earlier this month.
Venus and Serena Williams are also in the Olympic women's doubles draw, which they have dominated over the years. The Williams sisters are a perfect 10-0 in doubles at the Olympics, losing just four games combined in gold-medal matches at Sydney in 2000 and Beijing in 2008.
Both Venus and Serena are entered in the singles draw as well. Serena is seeking her first singles medal and Venus is hoping for a return to the top of the podium, where she celebrated 12 years ago in Sydney.
The Olympic mixed doubles field will not be officially announced until the week of the tournament. Nevertheless, since Venus and Serena are entered in at least two events, they each have the chance to become the first tennis player in history to win four career Olympic gold medals.
Before they return to the grass courts of Wimbledon, the four Olympians will be representing Washington on the multi-colored court of Kastles Stadium at The Wharf.
Tickets to see Venus Williams (July 16), Serena Williams (July 22), Anastasia Rodionova and Leander Paes are on sale now, but matches are close to selling out. Don't miss your chance to see four of the best athletes in the world competing on DC's Southwest Waterfront!