Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Pursues the Golden Slam - UBITENNIS
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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Pursues the Golden Slam

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Novak Djokovic practicing earlier this week in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

Novak Djokovic is one Olympic Gold medal and one US Open away from becoming the second player to achieve the Golden Slam: winning all four Majors and the Olympic gold medal in singles within the same year.  Thus far, it’s a feat only accomplished by Steffi Graf in 1988.  Djokovic has already won 21 of 34 matches necessary to do so, with six wins required over the next nine days in Tokyo.  How will Novak perform under the pressure of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

 

While many top names decided to skip this event, the men’s singles draw still features five of the world’s top 10, with seven of the top 10 on the women’s side.  Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev are the men’s top seeds, while Wimbledon champion Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka, who had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron on Friday, are the women’s top seeds.  And with so many singles players also competing in doubles, there will be plenty of highly-anticipated doubles matchups. 

The event will be staged at the Ariake Tennis Park, which usually hosts ATP and WTA 500 tournaments shortly after the US Open.  Unfortunately, there will be no fans in attendance due to Tokyo COVID-19 protocols.  Centre Court features a roof in case of rain.

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

Belinda Bencic (9) vs. Jessica Pegula – Third on Court 1

Bencic claimed their only previous meeting, though that was six years ago on grass.  However, Pegula has been the much better player of late.  Bencic is only 17-14 on the year, while Pegula is an impressive 27-13.  On hard courts, it’s 7-6 for Benic, and 17-6 for Pegula.  And Bencic has a losing record against top 30 opposition in 2021, and is 0-4 against the top 20.  By contrast, Pegula has accumulated six top 10 victories.  The court speed in Tokyo are reportedly rather slow for a hard court, which will not be as conducive to the American’s flat groundstrokes.  It’s also worth considering results at events where players are representing their countries, and not only playing for themselves, often inspire different players to excel.  But based on recent results, Pegula should still be favored to upset a top 10 seed.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Hugo Dellien – Fourth on Centre Court

At the last two Olympics, Djokovic has experienced heartache at the hands of Juan Martin Del Potro.  In London, the Argentine defeated him in the Bronze Medal match, preventing Novak from getting a medal.  In Rio, Del Potro upset Djokovic in the opening round, resulting in a dramatic scene where both men left the court in tears.  On Instagram this week, Juan Martin even teased Novak, commenting “I’ll be watching you!  This time you have your chance amigo!”  It would be shocking if Djokovic were to lose in the opening round again this year, especially against the 139th-ranked man in the world, who has spent most of this season playing Challenger events on clay.  And Dellien has never defeated a top 20 player in his career.  But it will be telling to see just how fresh and comfortable Djokovic looks just 13 days after winning his 20th Major, and with such history on the line.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Alexander Bublik – This is a rematch from the first round of Roland Garros, when Medvedev prevailed in straight sets to secure his first career victory at that event.

Kiki Bertens (16) vs. Marketa Vondrousova – This will be the last event of Bertens’ career, who just two years ago was ranked as high as No.4 in the world.  At the 2018 US Open, Vondrousova defeated Bertens in a third set tiebreak.

Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (2) vs. Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury – Murray is the two-time defending gold medalist in singles, and also won a silver medal nine years ago in mixed doubles.  Herbert and Mahut are coming off a French Open title last month, their fifth Major title as a team.

Ash Barty and Storm Sanders (4) vs. Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya – This will be Barty’s first match since her Wimbledon triumph two weeks prior.  Sanders reached the semifinals in women’s doubles at The All England Club.

Elise Mertens and Alison Van Uytvanck vs. Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro – Mertens is now the world No.1 in women’s doubles, following her Wimbledon title with Su-Wei Hsieh.  Muguruza and Suarez Navarro reached the quarterfinals in women’s doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev (6) vs. Rajeev Ram and Frances Tiafoe – This is the Russians’ fifth event as a team this season, while Ram and Tiafoe are a newly-formed partnership for this event.

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Iga Swiatek Demands Talks With ITF And WTA After Withdrawing From Billie Jean King Cup

Iga Swiatek is not happy with the ITF and WTA after withdrawing from the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

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Iga Swiatek (@IgaSwi_France - Twitter)

The world number one has announced that she will not compete at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November after criticising tennis’ governing bodies for not looking after player welfare.

 

The event is set to take place the week after the WTA Finals in Glasgow which causes a huge problem and obstacle for many players.

This is definitely the case for Swiatek who has qualified for the WTA Finals which takes place in Texas on the 31st of October.

A huge dilemma which now means Swiatek will not compete for her country at the Billie Jean King Cup.

Speaking on Instagram the Pole criticised the decision from the ITF and WTA and wants to speak to them about player welfare to prevent future decisions from happening, “I was thinking it through a lot and discussing it with my team all over again, but I will not be able to play at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow,” Swiatek said in her Instagram story.

“And it makes me sad. I’m very sorry because I play for Poland whenever it’s possible and I always give it my best. Playing in Poland this year was an honour and I hoped to do this again at the end of the season.

“I’m disappointed that tennis governing bodies didn’t come to an agreement on something as basic as the calendar of tournaments, giving us only one day to travel through the globe and changing the time zone. This situation is not safe for our health and could cause injury.

“I’m going to talk to the WTA and ITF in order to change something. This situation is difficult not only for the players like me, but mainly for the tennis fans that support our fans.”

It’s clear Swiatek wants change in terms of player welfare and communication between governing bodies on how to facilitate the schedule.

However Swiatek now turns her attention to preparing for the WTA Finals and first up for the Pole is Ostrava this week.

In her opening match Swiatek will face either Ajla Tomljanovic or Shuai Zhang.

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Cameron Norrie Withdraws From Tokyo After COVID Positive Test

Cameron Norrie will miss the rest of the Asian swing due to COVID.

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Cameron Norrie (@the_LTA - Twitter)

After withdrawing from his quarter-final in Seoul, Cameron Norrie has now withdrawn from the ATP 500 event in Tokyo.

 

The Brit’s absence from the latter stages of the ATP 250 event in South Korea, raised eyebrows with Norrie suffering from illness.

However Norrie then withdraw from the ATP 500 event in Tokyo where he was due to play Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Now his absence has been explained as Norrie confirmed on social media that he tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement originally posted on Instagram, Norrie explained he had no symptoms but has to quarantine in his hotel room in Seoul, “Unfortunately I had a positive COVID test in Korea and wasn’t able to compete in the rest of my matches,” Norrie said.

“I have no symptoms and I am feeling 100%. It’s been a complicated situation and I appreciate the Republic of Korea trying their best to be amicable in a very tough situation.

“I was really hoping to go to Tokyo but because of the quarantine period I will not be able to play there. Looking forward to getting back to Europe for the indoors. See you guys soon!”

This is the second time Norrie has tested positive for COVID with the first time being before the start of the season.

Norrie’s scheduled next tournament will be in Stockholm which will take place on the 17th of October.

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Carlos Alcaraz Faces Rune Test In Astana

Carlos Alcaraz leads a stacked field in Astana next week.

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Carlos Alcaraz (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Carlos Alcaraz returns to the ATP tour next week in Astana next week where he faces Danish talent Holger Rune.

 

The world number one plays his first ATP tournament since winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and becoming the youngest world number one in history.

Having qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals, Alcaraz will now look to build momentum over the coming weeks for the event in Turin.

First up for Alcaraz is the ATP 500 event in Astana next week where the Spaniard faces a tough opening round in the form of Danish talent Holger Rune.

The Dane reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros earlier this year but had struggled for form since then.

However Rune has reached the semi-finals in Sofia this week and is hitting form at the right time so this will be a big test for Alcaraz.

Should Alcaraz get through that test than a potential second round meeting with Stan Wawrinka could be on the cards with the Swiss wildcard facing Adrian Mannarino in his opening match.

Andrey Rublev is the player that could face Alcaraz in the last eight with the eighth seed facing a qualifier in his opening round match.

Rublev is one of a number of players who are chasing the remaining spots at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Also in the top half of the draw is Stefanos Tsitsipas and Hubert Hurkacz with Tsitsipas facing Mikhail Kukushkin.

While Hurkacz faces Francisco Cerundolo and a potential second round match against home favourite Alexander Bublik could await in round two.

In the bottom half of the draw, Novak Djokovic will continue his search for a surge up the rankings against Cristian Garin.

Djokovic’s potential quarter-final is Jannik Sinner who begins against tricky serve and volleyer Oscar Otte.

Daniil Medvedev is also taking part in a stacked field in Astana as he faces Albert Ramos-Vinolas in his opening round match.

In the bottom quarter there is also an intriguing opening round match between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Roberto Bautista Agut.

Here is the full draw with play starting on Monday:

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