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John Isner, Sam Querrey skipping Rio opens door for first-time Olympians

Brian Baker

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 24: Brian Baker of the United States serves during the Men’s Singles first round match against Bernard Tomic of Australia on day three of the 2016 French Open at Roland Garros on May 24, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

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Thanks to the absences of John Isner and Sam Querrey, an 18-year-old and a man ranked No. 596 in the world have a shot at the U.S. Olympic men’s tennis team.

Isner and Querrey are two of the top three U.S. men in ATP rankings. The U.S. can send a maximum of four men’s singles players to Rio, based on last week’s ATP rankings.

Both Isner and Querrey are committed to ATP events in August that will cause them to miss the Rio Olympics after competing in 2012 and 2008, respectively.

Without them, the top four remaining U.S. men for Olympic consideration are would-be first-time Olympians Jack Sock (No. 27 in the world last week), Steve Johnson (No. 39), Denis Kudla (No. 56) and 18-year-old Taylor Fritz (No. 65).

Nobody in that quartet has enough Davis Cup experience to be eligible for Rio, but the International Tennis Federation allows appeals to be made to wave that requirement. The U.S. Tennis Association said it would have a better idea of the Olympic team in the coming weeks.

Fritz would be the second-youngest U.S. Olympic tennis player since the sport returned to the Games at Seoul 1988. The youngest, Jennifer Capriati, won singles gold at Barcelona 1992.

But Fritz is not assured to have a shot at Rio.

That’s because of Brian Baker, who is ranked No. 596 in the world. However, Baker can use a protected ranking for Olympic consideration, as he missed all of 2014 and 2015 due to injury.

Baker first used the protected ranking this year to get into the Australian Open at No. 56, which is nine spots better than Fritz’s ranking at the Olympic qualifying cutoff.

Baker’s agent said Baker definitely wants to play in Rio if he can become eligible due to his protected ranking, along with a successful appeal of not meeting the Davis Cup experience requirement.

Baker, 31, memorably went seven years between Grand Slam appearances from 2005 and 2012 due to injuries.

MORE: Like golf, tennis’ return to Olympics in 1988 faced skeptics

Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to Brian Baker’s ranking as No. 262. That was his doubles ranking, not his singles ranking.