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Novak Djokovic: The Olympics Are Like No Other Tournament

The world No.1 speaks out about his Olympic ambitions in Tokyo.

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Novak Djokovic says he is not underestimating the threat posed from his peers heading into the Tokyo Olympic Games.

 

The world No.1 is seeking his first ever gold medal in what will be his fourth appearance at the Games after 2008, 2012 and 2012. So far in his career the Serbian has claimed one medal which was bronze back in 2008 in the singles competition. Djokovic is the only tennis player from his country to have ever won a medal at the Games following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Despite his lack of Olympic success, the 34-year-old heads to Tokyo as the favourite for many given his season. He has won the first three Grand Slam tournaments of 2021 and is currently on course to achieve the Golden Slam where a player wins all four major tournaments and the Olympics within the same year. Something which has only ever been achieved in singles by Stefi Graf back in 1988.

“The schedule is really rough but I feel that my preparations were good,” Tennis Majors quoted Djokovic as saying to reporters earlier this week. “Also, I won a lot of matches recently, which always gives you extra confidence and energy boost. Playing for my country, it is the highest honour and privilege for me. I am an individual athlete, rarely we have the occasion to be a team. I am grateful because we were able to win the ATP Cup and Davis Cup, and I am missing Olympic gold now. I have the highest ambitions in Tokyo, it is not a secret that I am aiming for the gold medal.”

Whilst some top names such as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are skipping Tokyo, Djokovic says that ‘anything can happen’ in the tournament. Ten of the world’s top 20 players are still participating in the event, as well as two-time defending champion Andy Murray.

“Although some players from the top are not coming, there are also a lot of elite players fighting for medals: (Daniil) Medvedev, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and (Alex) Zverev are among the favourites. They are the best, but it is a long tournament and anything can happen,” Djokovic commented.
“Furthermore, Olympics are specific in terms of pressure, expectations and emotions – everything is different compared to other tournaments and I know that very well, I felt it on my own skin in the past. Therefore, I will try to approach the Olympics in the same way that I approach other tournaments, so that I can stay focused on my goal.”

Now a veteran when it comes to living the Olympic experience, this year will be very different for Djokovic. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, various restrictions have been implemented on athletes. Furthermore, all events held in Tokyo, including the tennis tournament, are being held behind closed doors due virus cases in the area.

It really is a unique feeling. The village: best athletes in the world share time, we eat and sleep under the same roof… It is a valuable experience which spurred my individual career afterwards. It is interesting to see other elite athletes practicing, preparing, eating, and recovering. It is fun, but it is useful as well, the knowledge you get.” He concluded.

The Olympic tennis tournament will start on Saturday.

Djokovic’s Olympic record

Singles

  • 2008 – defeated James Blake to win a Bronze medal
  • 2012 – finished in fourth place after losing the bronze medal match to Juan Martin del Potro
  • 2016 – suffered a first round loss to del Potro

Doubles

  • 2008 – lost in the first round (partner Nenad Zimonjić)
  • 2012 – lost in the first round (partner Viktor Troicki)
  • 2016 – lost in the second round (partner Zimonjić)

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Nine Major Singles Champions in Action on Monday

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A look at one of the outer courts at Ariake Tennis Park (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

The second round begins on Day 3 in both singles and doubles, with fascinating matchups throughout the day all around the Ariake Tennis Park.  Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are the headliners of this tennis event, and both will again be considerable favorites on Monday.  But the most inspirational story of this event is Carla Suarez Navarro, who on Sunday earned her first singles win since announcing she is cancer-free just three months ago.  In the second round, she faces Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova.  On the men’s side, 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic required an astounding 11 match points to advance in the first round.  Now he’ll take on Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, who just a week ago won the biggest title of his career in Hamburg, Germany.

 

Each day, this preview will analyze the most intriguing men’s and women’s matchup, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Monday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Karolina Pliskova (5) [CZE] vs. Carla Suarez Navarro [ESP] – Third on Court 3

Suarez Navarro played singles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, but went down in three sets during the first round of both events.  Yet on Sunday against Ons Jabeur, one of 2021’s best players, Carla earned her first singles victory since coming back from fighting Hodgkin Lymphoma.  On Monday, she faces the WTA’s “Ace Queen,” who bounced back nicely from the disappointment of losing her second Major final by winning comfortably on Sunday.  Pliskova’s former coach Rennae Stubbs highlighted on NBC’s coverage how Karolina, one of the tallest players on tour, will not mind the high-bouncing conditions on the courts in Tokyo.  Their head-to-head has been rather even, with Pliskova holding a slight edge 4-3.  However, Karolina has claimed their last three meetings, dating back to 2015.  Pliskova’s level can fluctuate from day-to-day, and you certainly don’t want to underestimate the fight of Suarez Navarro, but the fire power of the fifth seed will be tough to overcome.

Pablo Carreno Busta (6) [ESP] vs. Marin Cilic [CRO] – Fourth on Court 1

Carreno Busta may be the seeded player, but he’s never beaten Cilic, who is 4-0 against the Spaniard.  Three of those four victories came on hard courts.  Marin has struggled in recent years, but rediscovered some strong form a month ago grass.  Cilic was the champion in Stuttgart, and was two sets up on Daniil Medvedev at Wimbledon before losing in five.  Hard courts have not been as friendly to Cilic of late, but Carreno Busta has exceled on this surface.  Pablo has reached the semifinals of the US Open twice in the last four years.  Both men have previous success representing their countries: Cilic helped Croatia win the Davis Cup in 2018, with Carreno Busta doing the same for Spain a year later.  But in tight matches, Pablo has been the far better performer over the last few years, and is a slight favorite to earn his first win over Marin.

Other Notable Matches on Monday:

Novak Djokovic (1) [SRB] vs. Jan-Lennard Struff [GER] – Djokovic is 5-0 against Struff, dropping only one of 14 sets played.

Naomi Osaka (2) [JPN] vs. Viktorija Golubic [SUI] – Osaka looked pretty sharp in her opening round on Sunday, her first match in 56 days.  28-year-old Golubic was a surprise quarterfinalist earlier this month at Wimbledon.

Daniil Medvedev (2) [ROC] vs. Sumit Nagal [IND] – On Saturday, Nagal became the first Indian man to win a singles match at the Olympics since 1996.  Medvedev did not appear to enjoy the heat and humidity during his first round, yet still prevailed in straight sets.

Aryna Sabalenka (3) [BLR] vs. Donna Vekic [CRO] – Sabalenka surrendered only three games in her opening round win.  Two years ago on a hard court in San Jose, she defeated Vekic in straight sets.

Iga Swiatek (6) [POL] vs. Paula Badosa [ESP] – Swiatek breezed through her first round match by a score of 6-2, 6-2, but Badosa is an impressive competitor in the midst of a breakout season, with 27 match wins.

Ash Barty and Storm Sanders (6) [AUS] vs. Yifan Xu and Zhaoxuan Yang [CHN] – Barty did not perform well in her first round singles loss, committing more than 50 unforced errors.  But she and good friend Sanders remain one of the most formidable teams in the women’s doubles draw.

Monday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Kei Nishikori Downs Rublev In Home Olympics Opener, Tsitsipas Survives Kohlschreiber

Kei Nishikori secured a big win at his home Olympics by beating Andrey Rublev.

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Kei Nishikori (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Kei Nishikori opened his home Olympics in Tokyo with a 6-3 6-4 win over 5th seed Andrey Rublev.

 

The former US Open finalist produced some of his best tennis to dominate the Russian to reach the second round.

Nishikori played some sublime tennis in the opening set using some great angles to dictate play.

Despite being broken in the seventh game, the world number 68 broke for a second time to take the opening set 6-3.

The Russian couldn’t outpower the Japanese star as he failed to create a break point in the second set.

A solitary break in the seventh game of the second set was enough as he secured a monumental victory.

After the match Nishikori told the ITF website how great it felt to put in a performance like that, “It’s been a while since I’ve been playing like this,” the 2016 bronze medallist said.

“I was struggling playing Top-10 players the last couple of months, or maybe all this year. This is the first time I’m playing a very solid match, so I’m happy of course beating Rublev, but also happy with my tennis today.”

Nishikori also spoke about playing at home in the Olympics and what that does to his game, “It’s good to be playing at home, especially this site,” Nishikori explained.

“I’ve been playing here a lot – sometimes it feels like home, though with no spectators it’s tough. But I have to enjoy playing here – I know many people are watching on TV, so I just have to focus on what I have to do on the court.”

Nishikori will now face Marcus Giron next who battled past Norbert Gombos in three sets.

Meanwhile Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first male Greek player since 1928 to win a match at the Olympics.

Tsitsipas recovered from a break down in the third set to beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3 3-6 6-3 in 1 hour and 54 minutes.

Tsitsipas will now look to get revenge for his Wimbledon loss as he plays Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

There were also wins for Diego Schwartzman, Alexander Zverev and Karen Khachanov while the only Brit in singles standing Liam Broady edged past Francisco Cerundolo 7-5 4-6(4) 6-2 in three hours and eleven minutes.

Broady will face 7th seed and Wimbledon semi-finalist Hubert Hurkacz in the second round on Tuesday.

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Andy Murray Prioritises Doubles In Olympic Medal Bid After Singles Withdrawal

Andy Murray has decided to concentrate on doubles at the Olympics after withdrawing from singles.

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Andy Murray (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Andy Murray has prioritized doubles in a bid to win a medal at the Olympic games after withdrawing from singles.

 

The two-time defending gold medallist was due to play Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday but decided to withdraw.

Another heart-breaking decision by Murray after multiple injuries this season and was looking to prove his match fitness after reaching the third round at Wimbledon.

The official reason was a thigh strain and in a statement the Brit revealed that medical staff had advised against playing both singles and doubles, “I am really disappointed at having to withdraw but the medical staff have advised me against playing in both events, so I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the singles and focus on playing doubles with Joe,” Murray said in a statement.

It’s a decision that was tough to make but was a smart decision as Murray looks to win his fourth Olympic medal.

In their first round match Murray and Joe Salisbury convincingly beat second seeds Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut just dropping five games.

Now the British duo will face German pair Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz in the second round.

Meanwhile Auger-Aliassime, who was due to meet Murray, faced Australian doubles specialist Max Purcell.

However the Canadian didn’t fare much better as he suffered a shock exit at the hands of the Australian 6-4 7-6(2).

Purcell will face Dominik Koepfer or Facundo Bagnis in the second round.

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