Djokovic Begins Quest For Olympic Gold With Win

Novak Djokovic (photo: @ITFTennis/Twitter)

TOKYO/WASHINGTON, July 24, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Novak Djokovic began his quest for an Olympic gold medal with an opening-round victory over No. 139 Hugo Dellien of Bolivia at the Tokyo Olympics Saturday.

The World No. 1 and top seed from Serbia did not face any break points during his 63-minute, 6-2, 6-2 victory that advanced him to the second round against No. 48 Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, who beat 95th-ranked Thiago Monteiro of Brazil, 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic was among eight men’s seeds and six women’s seeds who won their first-round matches during the first day of the Olympic tennis event at Ariake Park. He hit seven aces and 10 winners against just six unforced errors. Djokovic outpointed Dellien 61-31.

“It’s just a different kind of energy, coming into the Olympics and representing your country, than any other tournament,” Djokovic said, quoted by the ITF website. “The Olympics is once every four years; we have four Grand Slams and many tournaments every year in our sport – we are lucky to have many opportunities.

“But the Olympics, it’s four years. That’s why the build-up is so important, and of course if you lose you feel like the whole world fell apart in that moment. But the next day you move on – that’s sport. Hopefully I can keep smiling in a week’s time, let’s see.”

No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev of the ROC advanced with a 6-4, 7-6 (8) victory over Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan. Next, Medvedev will play Sumit Nagal of India, who got past Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-4. Nagal became the first Indian man to win an Olympic singles match since Leander Paes won the bronze medal in 1996 at Atlanta.

Other men’s seeds moving on include: No. 6 Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, who defeated Tennys Sandgren of the United States, 7-5, 6-2; No. 11 Aslan Karatsev of the ROC, who beat Tommy Paul of the United States, 6-3, 6-2; No. 13 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, who bested Taro Daniel of Japan, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3); No. 14 Ugo Humbert of France, who defeated Pablo Andujar of Spain, 7-6 (3), 6-1; No. 15 Fabio Fognini of Italy, who beat Yuichi Sugita of Japan, 6-4, 6-3; and No. 16 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, who advanced over Pedro Souza of Portugal, 6-3, 6-0.

Among the most interesting men’s matches, unseeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, ranked 36th, defeated Brazil’s 217th-ranked Joao Menezes on his 11th match point, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (7). Cilic came back from 4-5 down in the second, then squandered a 5-0 lead and eight match points in the third before saving a match point himself and winning in a third-set tie break.

Meanwhile, women’s No. 6 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Mona Barthel of Germany, needing just 67 minutes to win the opening match on Centre Court.

“It was a special moment for me,” Swiatek said, quoted by the ITF website. “I know that right now I really feel the Olympic vibe.”

In garnering her 28th victory of the year, Swiatek hit 13 winners and broke the 210th-ranked Barthel’s serve six times.

Next, Swiatek will now face Spain’s Paula Badosa, ranked 29th, who overcame No. 63 Kristina Mladenovic of France, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-0.

Other women’s seeds advancing to the second round include: No. 8 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who won by retirement against Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, 5-2, after just 32 minutes; No. 9 Belinda Bencic, who defeated Jessica Pegula of the United States, 6-3, 6-3; No. 13 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of the ROC, who won over Sara Errani of Italy, 6-0, 6-1; No. 14 Maria Sakkari of Greece, who beat Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, 7-5, 6-2; No. 15 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who bested Samantha Stosur of Australia, 6-4, 6-2.

The only seeded woman not to win was No. 16 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands, who lost to No. 41 Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Women’s No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia plays her first-round match on Sunday against Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain. No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan, who lit the Olympic cauldron during the Opening Ceremonies Friday evening, is also in action.

Around Ariake Park

Saturday’s Olympics results

Sunday’s Olympics order of play

By the numbers

• There are 46 nations represented in this year’s Olympic Tennis Tournament as well as three Olympic gold medalists and 11 Grand Slam singles champions.

• Defending men’s singles champion Andy Murray is aiming to win a fourth Olympic medal and equal the all-time record for most Olympic tennis medals won by a men’s player.

Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland was the first player to advance to the second round after defeating Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia, 6-4, 6-1, in 59 minutes.

What they’re sharing on social media

A look back at the Opening Ceremonies