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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Simona Halep Provides Injury Update On Knee Ahead Of US Open

The return of Simona Halep looks a long way away from happening as a knee injury continues to bother the Romanian.

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Simona Halep has provided an update on her knee injury as she faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open.

The former Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion’s comeback has not gone according to plan so far as she returned from a doping ban in Miami earlier this year.

However playing time has been limited for the Romanian as her second tournament of the year ended in a first round retirement at a Challenger event in Paris.

As a result of her retirement Halep was forced to miss Roland Garros and Wimbledon as she looked to recover from a knee injury.

The injury is more serious than meets the eye though as Halep provided an update on her knee injury and revealed it’s an injury that has been occurring for the last few months, “I wanted to provide a little health update since I have been away from the court lately. It is not the best news, but I wanted to share all the same,” Halep revealed on Instagram.

“For a few months now, I have been struggling with a knee injury. It’s an injury I have never had before and it has been a tough one to manage, with the pain persisting. It has been a very difficult period (almost two years) mentally and emotionally for me and struggling physically on top of that definitely doesn’t help.

“I have decided to take the time needed to recover properly, rather than training and playing through pain. My instinct has always been to try to come back as soon as possible, but I am not a machine, I am a human being and I need time to recover from everything I have gone through.

“I’ll keep you posted and, as always, want to thank you for your permanent support. I hope to be back on court very soon.”

Halep now faces a race against time to be fit for the US Open which starts on the 26th of August.

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Alexander Zverev Commits To Olympics, Speaks About Miscommunication Between Olympics And ATP

Alexander Zverev is preparing for his Olympic title defence.

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Alexander Zverev has spoken out on the miscommunication between the Olympics and the ATP tour with tennis’ top stars set to miss some big events on the tour.

The German is getting ready to defend his Olympic title that he won in Tokyo as Zverev heads to Paris.

After narrowly missing out on Roland Garros glory, Zverev now has an opportunity at redemption as he aims for a second consecutive gold medal at the Olympics.

However there is a dilemma for big players this year as the same week as the tennis event at the Olympics at the ATP 500 event in Washington.

This is an event that Zverev usually plays but will have to miss it due to playing in Paris.

Speaking out on the miscommunication, Zverev said it’s no secret that the ATP are not best friends on the Olympics but has committed to the historic event, “The ITF or the Olympics are not best friends with the ATP, that’s not a secret,” Zverev was quoted by Tennis Infinity as saying.

Everybody continues their own tour. Yes, the Olympics is one of the, if not the, most important events we have in sports. So, the best players in the world are always going to play the Olympics over anything else, over points and over prize money.

All the top players went to Wimbledon a few years back, despite having no points on the line. It’s about prestige, it’s not about points or money. It’s about winning these kinds of titles and having medals for your country.

That’s what it’s about. I would never choose to play a 500 event over the Olympics. There are no thoughts on that, and I think Washington is going to be quite an interesting 500 event, I would say.

The ATP 500 event in Washington will be headlined by Grigor Dimitrov, Ben Shelton, Karen Khachanov and Frances Tiafoe as they are among those that have chosen ranking points over the Olympic experience.

As for Zverev he is continuing his Olympic preparations in Hamburg where he will face Pedro Martinez in the semi-finals.

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Rafael Nadal Reveals Delight At Setting Up Ajdukovic Semi-Final After Four Hour Victory

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the Bastad semi-finals after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

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(ubitennis/Francesca Micheli)

Rafael Nadal has revealed his delight at reaching the semi-finals in Bastad after a four hour victory over Mariano Navone.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion prevailed in a marathon 6-7(2) 7-5 7-5 victory to reach his first semi-final since Wimbledon 2022.

The Spaniard converted ten of his 21 break point opportunities as he reached the semi-finals.

After the match Nadal revealed his delight at reaching the last four and prevailed Navone for his resilient display, “I lost for some moments my concentration, but I was able to hold physically until the end,” Nadal told the ATP website.

“That is so important for me. Let’s see how I am tomorrow, but today I am alive and in the semi-finals, so that’s very important. There were a lot of changing dynamics in every single set. For moments, he was in control. For moments, I was in control. But at the end, no one was in control! That’s true, and I had a good chance in the second with 3-0. Then I was very close to losing the match in the second set.

“In the third [I was ahead] again with 5-2, but he’s a great fighter and he played a great match. I wish him all the very best for the rest of the season.”

Nadal will now play Duje Ajdukovic in the semi-finals as he aims to continue his eight match winning streak in Bastad with this being his first appearance at the tournament since winning the title in 2005.

The other semi-final will be Nuno Borges against Thiago Agustin Tirante with both players reaching their maiden ATP tour semi-final.

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