One of America’s top hopes for an Olympic medal in tennis has decided not to compete in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.
John Isner, the highest-ranked American at No. 16 in the world, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday that he has opted to skip the Olympics this year in favor of focusing on the American hard-court season.
“It’s a decision I didn’t take lightly,” Isner said via AJC.
With Isner out, that leaves world No. 26 Jack Sock as the next highest-ranked American eligible. As many as four Americans will receive invitations to play in Rio.
Isner, 30, has traditionally performed well during the U.S. hard-court swing. He plans on playing at the Citi Open tournament in Washington that runs from July 16-24, followed by The BB&T Atlanta Open played Aug. 1-7, the week before tennis begins in Rio.
“Logistically, it would be pretty much impossible for me to do both,” Isner said via AJC of playing in Atlanta and Rio.
Isner is also expected to play the week before Atlanta at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, one of the premier summer hard-court tournaments that is a mandatory event on the ATP World Tour calendar.
Another factor that players must weigh is that unlike recent Olympic tennis tournaments, no ranking points will be awarded at Rio. Isner told AJC that his decision on the Olympics wasn’t about prize money or ranking points.
“We can confirm that there will be no ranking points for men or women at the 2016 Olympic tennis event,” International Tennis Federation spokesman Nick Imison said Thursday in an email to The Washington Post. “However we believe that players are honored to play the Olympics, and that ranking points are not a consideration for their participation.”
At his first Olympic Games at London in 2012, Isner lost in the quarterfinals to eventual silver medalist Roger Federer. And while many athletes train to peak at the Olympics, professional tennis revolves around the Grand Slams, Isner said.
“Nothing against the Olympics,” Isner told The Post in late February when he announced his commitment to the Citi Open. “I played in 2012 and it was an incredible experience. It’s different for tennis players than for swimmers and track and field athletes. That’s the pinnacle of their sport and not so much the pinnacle of tennis.”
The U.S. Open, the last Grand Slam of the season, will be played Aug. 29-Sept. 11 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Isner has not advanced past the fourth round at the U.S. Open since 2011.
“Tennis is not really a traditional Olympic sport,” Isner said in our interview. “If you ask Roger [Federer], I don’t think he dreamed of winning Olympic gold. He probably dreamed of winning Wimbledon seven times, like he has. …Our biggest events are the Grand Slams and are always going to be the Grand Slams.”
This post has been updated with a statement from the International Tennis Federation.