Tennis Day 1 preview: Venus Williams makes her Rio debut

The United States’ No. 5 seed Venus Williams, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, will make her Rio debut tomorrow evening in a first round Centre Court match-up against Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens. The American, who currently ranks as the World No. 6 player, is perhaps the biggest star to compete in tomorrow’s singles competitions.   

Williams, 36, had a rocky start to 2016, crashing out of January’s Australian Open in the first round. However, she’s since seen a resurgence: The former World No. 1 won at the Taiwan Open in February and advanced to the French Open’s fourth round and the Wimbledon semifinals. (She’s also performed well in doubles alongside sister Serena, with the siblings winning Wimbledon’s doubles competition in July.) 

Venus is currently ranked the World No. 6 female player by the Women’s Tennis Association. In prior match-ups, Williams has defeated Flipkens twice and lost once. 

A number of Americans will also compete tomorrow, including Brian Baker, Madison Keys, Steve Johnson, Jack Sock and Sloane Stephens. Stephens will face a particularly difficult first round challenge in Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard.

On the men’s side, Japan’s No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori will be the first to take Centre Court in a 10:45 AM ET match-up against Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The 26-year-old Nishikori leads the 28-year-old Ramos-Vinolas 3-1 in prior match-ups.   

Other big names: France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will play Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri and France’s Gael Monfils will face Canada’s Vasek Pospisil.  

World No. 1 men’s singles player Novak Djokovic will make an appearance tomorrow, but only in men’s doubles: He and partner Nenad Zimonjic will compete against Croatian duo Marin Cilic and Marin Draganja

Saturday will see play unfold in four divisions (men’s and women’s singles, doubles) across ten courts. The draws feature a total of 199 athletes: 105 men and 94 women.