Sorribes Tormo Eliminates Barty From Olympics Singles Tournament

Sara Sorribes Tormo (photo: @ITFTennis/Twitter)

TOKYO/WASHINGTON, July 25, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Winning a major title just two weeks before an Olympic Games is no blueprint for success. Just ask Ashleigh Barty.

Just two weeks after the World No. 1 won her first Wimbledon singles title – and second major overall – the No. 1 seed Barty from Australia fell in the first round of the Olympics singles tournament to 48th-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, 6-4, 6-3, Sunday afternoon in Tokyo.

Playing under blistering heat with temperatures soaring above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), in which the ITF activated its extreme weather policy, Barty committed 55 unforced errors and never seemed to get her rhythm going against the 24-year-old Spaniard, who won her first WTA singles title earlier this year in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“It was incredible, I don’t know what to say, I have goosebumps. It’s amazing,” Sorribes Tormo, who was making her Olympics debut, said in describing the feeling of beating Barty.

“It’s the best victory in my career, for sure, because of the place, for who she is, because of what the Olympics means to me and because of playing for Spain.”

Next, Sorribes Tormo will face No. 64 Fiona Ferro of France, who rallied to advance over No. 53 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Although Barty saved two set points in the opening set and later fought off two match points while serving at 3-5 in the second set, she netted a backhand volley on Sorribes Tormo’s third match-point opportunity that ended the 94-minute match played on Centre Court at Ariake Park. Throughout, Barty never got on track and Sorribes Tormo took advantage of nearly every opportunity that came her way.

“I never really felt comfortable out there and wasn’t able to play the match on my terms,” Barty, a winner of 35 WTA matches and four titles this season, said after the loss. “The key to my game is serving well and I wasn’t able to do that. I was a bit erratic and made too many errors. The match was always going to be challenging. I felt like I had to be aggressive and she made me press and overplay.”

Barty remains alive in the doubles competition, paired with Storm Sanders. “I’ve always enjoyed doubles and have loved the chance to play with Storm here in Tokyo,” she said. “She’s a quality person and makes the most of every opportunity she’s given. I’m excited to get back out there with Storm and keep fighting for that gold medal.”

Osaka dominates opener, then meets the press

Two days after lighting the Olympic cauldron, Japan’s Naomi Osaka returned to competition for the first time since pulling out of the French Open nearly two months ago, citing mental health issues. She picked up where she left off – and with Barty eliminated, Osaka becomes a gold medal favorite.

The 23-year-old Osaka dominated No. 52 Zheng Saisai of China, 6-1, 6-4, needing just 97 minutes to win and advance. She jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set – which included serving three aces in her opening service game – and by the end outpointed Zheng 69-47. Next, Osaka plays No. 50 Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland on Monday.

During her post-match exchange with press in both English and Japanese, Osaka revealed that she was asked by Japanese officials in March if she would light the Olympic cauldron. Osaka kept it a secret for months. “Right now I feel very, very proud,” she said. “I think when I lit the flame, I was super honored. You know, that’s a position you dream about, and not anyone can do it and so for me, when they asked me if they wanted to, I was very surprised but very honored and I’m just happy to be here and happy to play, especially in Tokyo.”

Osaka, who in recent weeks has been on the covers of Vogue China and Sports Illustrated‘s Swimsuit Issue, was asked how it felt to be amid the the press, after everything that happened to her the past two months, which including skipping Wimbledon after withdrawing from the French Open rather than attend post-match news conferences.

“Um, for me, honestly, I don’t feel that weird about it,” Osaka said. “It might feel weird to you guys, but, I don’t know. I’m happy that I guess you guys are asking me questions. But more than anything, I was just focused on playing tennis, and I guess I feel a little bit out of my body right now.”

Regarding her game, Osaka said: “I felt fine, like, there’s nothing wrong with my body. I just felt really nervous, like, I haven’t played since France. There are definitely things that I felt I did a bit wrong, but I’m hoping that I can improve in the matches that I continue playing.”

Murray pulls out of singles competition

Andy Murray of Great Britain, the two-time defending men’s Olympic gold medal winner, pulled out of the singles competition with a strain of his right quadriceps. He was replaced in the draw by Max Purcell of Australia, who went on to defeat No. 9 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, 6-4, 7-6 (2).

Murray will continue to compete for Great Britain along with Joe Salisbury in the doubles tournament. The pair won their first-round match on Saturday, knocking out French Open champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut from France, 6-3, 6-2.

“I am really disappointed at having to withdraw but the medical staff have advised me against playing in both events,” Murray said in press. “So, I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the single and focus on playing doubles with Joe.”

Sunday’s Olympic tennis results

Monday’s Olympic tennis order of play

The entire women’s round of 32 singles is on Monday’s schedule while half of the men’s second round singles will contested.

Tsitsipas makes big move for Greece

Stefanos Tsitsipas became the first man from Greece to win an Olympic singles match since Augustus Zerlandis at the Paris Games in 1924.

“Stats are important. It’s a good thing to know that this happened,” Tsitsipas said, quoted by the ITF website. “I’m a person that’s optimistic and I’m a person that wants more. It is an honor. It’s a big move for Greece. It’s a big move for this sport in Greece as well and there’s joy in dong that.”

Around Ariake Park

Among the seeded men who advanced to the second round: No. 4 Alexander Zverev of Germany, who defeated Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan, 6-1, 6-3; No. 7 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who beat Luke Seville of Australia, 6-2, 6-4; No. 8 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, who bested Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru, 7-5, 6-4, and No. 12 Karen Khachanov of the ROC, who defeated Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2. The upsets included, No. 5 Andrey Rublev of the ROC, who lost to Kei Nishikori of Japan, 6-3, 6-4, and No. 10 Gaël Monfils of France, who fell to Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, 6-4 4-6, 7-5.

Meanwhile, third seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, No. 4 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and No. 5 Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic, led the seeded women advancing to the second round. Sabalenka beat Magda Linette of Poland, 6-2, 6-1, Svitolina defeated Laura Siegemund of Germany, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, and Pliskova took out Alizé Cornet of France, 6-1, 6-3. Other seeds winning include: No. 7 Garbiñe Muguruza, who beat Veronika Kudermetova of the ROC, 7-5, 7-5, and No. 10 Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic, who advanced over Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 6-4, 6-3. No. 11 Jennifer Brady of the United States and No. 12 Elise Mertens of Belgium were upset in their respective first-round matches.

In the second round, Pliskova will face Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain, who won her first singles match since recovering from cancer, defeating Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, 6-4, 6-1.

By the numbers

With the first round of the men’s and women’s singles complete, here is an overview of the seeds:

Men: Through to the second round – 1. Novak Djokovic, 2. Daniil Medvedev, 3. Stefanos Tsitsipas, 4. Alexander Zverev, 6. Pablo Carreño Busta, 7. Hubert Hurkacz, 8. Diego Schwartzman, 11. Aslan Karatsev, 12. Karen Khachanov, 13. Lorenzo Sonego, 14. Ugo Humbert, 15. Fabio Fognini, 16. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Lost in the first round – 5. Andrey Rublev, 9. Felix Auger-Aliassime, 10. Gaël Monfils.

Women: Through to the second round – 2. Naomi Osaka, 3. Aryna Sabalenka, 4. Elina Svitolina, 5. Karolina Pliskova, 6. Iga Swiatek, 7. Garbiñe Muguruza, 8. Barbora Krejcikova, 9. Belinda Bencic, 10. Petra Kvitova, 13. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 14. Maria Sakkari, 15. Elena Rybakina. Lost in the first round – 1. Ashleigh Barty, 11. Jennifer Brady, 12. Elise Mertens, 16. Kiki Bertens.

Quotable …”

“It’s a unique experience, it’s a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it, being surrounded with top athletes from around the world. Observing what they eat, how they train, how they recover. Exchanging information with them, it’s fantastic.”

Novak Djokovic, who is in pursuit of a Golden Slam – winning all four major titles plus an Olympic gold medal in the same year, which has only been done by Steffi Graf in 1988 – on why he loves competing at the Olympics.

Looking ahead

The last time that American Frances Tiafoe and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece met, the 23-year-old from Maryland scored one of the biggest wins of his career. Tiafoe beat Tsitsipas, 6-4, 5-4, 6-3, in the first round at Wimbledon. They will face each other in the second round on Tuesday after Tiafoe defeated Soon-woo Kwon of South Korea, 6-3, 6-2, and Tsitsipas beat Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.