Olympics: Djokovic makes winning start in quest for gold

  • Matt Trollope

World No.1 Novak Djokovic dropped just four games in the first round in Tokyo as he began his mission for a first Olympic tennis gold medal.

The Serb beat Hugo Dellien of Bolivia 6-2 6-2 to set a second-round match-up with Jan-Lennard Struff, the big-hitting German who beat Thiago Monteiro in straight sets.

Earlier on Saturday, No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev and Polish major winner Iga Swiatek progressed to the second round, as did reigning Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic.

The doubles events also commenced, with Australia’s Ash Barty (partnering Storm Sanders) and two-time Olympic champion Andy Murray (alongside Joe Salisbury) winning through. 

Djokovic continues winning ways

Djokovic entered the Tokyo Games having won the Australian, French and Wimbledon titles, and had openly discussed targeting an extremely rare and prestigious ‘Golden Grand Slam’ – winning all four major tournaments, plus Olympic singles gold, in a calendar year.

Only one player in tennis history – Steffi Graf in 1988 – has completed the feat, and Djokovic took a step closer to emulating the great German thanks to his decisive win over Dellien.

The top seed struck 23 winners and only six unforced errors in the 61-minute rout, keeping his time on court in the sweltering summer conditions to a minimum while extending his winning streak to 19 matches.

Medvedev, arguably Djokovic’s biggest threat for the gold medal, navigated a tricky opening-round assignment in Alexander Bublik, beating the Kazakh 6-4 7-6(8).

Daniil Medvedev in action at the Tokyo Olympics
Daniil Medvedev trailed 3-0 in the second set and saved a set point in the tiebreak to beat Alexander Bublik 6-4 7-6(8) in the opening round of the Olympic Tennis Event in Tokyo. (Getty Images)

Both players frequently approached the net to keep points short in the sapping heat and humidity, with the Russian able to force enough errors from Bublik in the tight final stages.

Medvedev will next face India’s Sumit Nagal, who beat Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

Other seeds to advance in Tokyo were Russia’s Aslan Karatsev, Italians Lorenzo Sonego and Fabio Fognini, Frenchman Ugo Humbert and Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

No.16 seed Davidovich Fokina next plays Aussie John Millman, who saw off Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti in straight sets. 

Swiatek, Krejcikova begin with wins

Swiatek opened the day’s play on Centre Court with a dominant 6-2 6-2 victory over German Mona Berthel.

No.6 seed Swiatek, the French Open champion in 2020, needed just 67 minutes to swat aside Barthel, whose nine winners were outweighed by 30 unforced errors. 

Swiatek remains on course for a quarterfinal clash with world No.2 Naomi Osaka, the Japanese superstar who received the honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron to conclude Friday night’s Opening Ceremony.

Later on Saturday, Krejcikova was leading Zarina Diyas 5-2 in the opening set before the Kazakh retired with a suspected ankle injury.

The player Krejcikova beat in the Roland Garros final, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, began her campaign on a strong note with a 6-0 6-1 win over former world No.5 Sara Errani. 

The Russian will next face Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam for a potential third-round meeting with Australia’s world No.1 Barty.  

Kazakh Elena Rybakina advanced with a 6-4 6-2 win over Barty’s countrywoman Sam Stosur, while Greece’s Maria Sakkari beat 28th-ranked Anett Kontaveit 7-5 6-2 to set up a second-round match with Serb Nina Stojanovic

Doubles: Murray & Salisbury stun French favourites

Murray and Salisbury played incredibly to dismiss Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.

The French No.2 seeds had earlier this season triumphed at Roland Garros and Queen’s Club and had won 14 of their past 16 matches, but were no match for the Brits, who dropped just five games to advance to the second round, where they will meet German pair Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz

Meanwhile, Barty and Australian partner Storm Sanders thumped Japanese duo Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-1 6-2 to reach the last 16.

Image of the Day

Ash Barty (L) and Storm Sanders celebrate their first-round win in the women's doubles tournament in Tokyo. (Getty Images)

Quotes of the day

“I wasn’t expecting that. I know that they changed the schedule yesterday, but it was a special moment for me (to open on Centre Court). I know that right now I really feel the Olympic vibe.” 
– Iga Swiatek, whose first-round match was moved from Court 1 to Centre Court after Naomi Osaka’s first-round match was taken off the schedule in light of her participation in the Opening Ceremony.

“There are a few players that you don’t want to play in the first round… (including) Bublik – I’ve played them a lot in first rounds lately, and it’s not easy. But the good thing is, you know that if you manage to go through this round, you’re going to have some momentum. That’s what happened at Roland Garros: it was not an easy match against him, but I managed to beat him and went on to win many matches in a row, so I hope it’s going to be the same here.” 
- Daniil Medvedev

“I think it was probably the toughest first round I could get. Anett is an exceptional player. It was very tough when I saw the draw that I’m playing her in the first round but I think I managed to play really well after the 5-2. I made a lot of balls and it went well in the end. I actually like these conditions." 
- Maria Sakkari, who trailed 5-2 in the first set and later saved a set point before beating Anett Kontaveit in the first round.

Tweet of the day

Day 2: Ones to watch

An incredible Centre Court schedule begins on Sunday with the world’s top two women, Barty and Osaka, playing their first-round matches back-to-back.

Barty faces a tricky opener against Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo before Osaka takes on China’s Zheng Saisai

Following that comes the first-round blockbuster between two-time gold medallist Murray and Canadian rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime.

On Court 1, No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka is in action while fifth seed Andrey Rublev takes on Japan’s Kei Nishikori in another excellent first-round match later in the day.