Osaka, Djokovic Win But Plenty Of Olympic Upsets

Naomi Osaka (photo: @ITFTennis/Twitter)

TOKYO/WASHINGTON, July 26, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

On a day in which women’s No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan and men’s top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia sailed safely into the round of 16 at the Olympics Tennis Tournament in Tokyo, Monday was otherwise a day filled with plenty of big upsets in the women’s singles draw.

Medal hopes were dashed for No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek of Poland, who was driven to tears following her loss; and 2016 Rio bronze medalist Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic – all out of the Tokyo Games.

Sabalenka fell to No. 50 Donna Vekic of Croatia, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3). Swiatek was eliminated by Spain’s Paula Badosa, ranked 29th, 6-3, 7-6 (4); and Kvitova was upset by No. 59 Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0.

Osaka, the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion, steered clear of any danger during her 65-minute victory over No. 49 Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, 6-3, 6-2. With No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia eliminated in the first round, Osaka is the favorite going forward for the women’s gold medal. She hit three aces and 22 winners, saved the only break point she faced and converted three of five break-point opportunities while outpointing Golubic 61-36. She is yet to drop a set in her first two matches. Next, Osaka will face No. 42 Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who advanced over No. 169 Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, 6-1, 6-2.

“I put this pressure on myself to do well because I know that I don’t play that many tournaments,” said Osaka, who is biding to become the first Japanese woman to medal at the Tokyo Games. “For me, I feel like I’ve watched these players playing the tournaments while I was on my break, so I just really, really want to do well.”

Golubic, who is still alive in the doubles tournament with fellow Swiss Belinda Bencic, said of her experience playing Osaka: “It was special of course. It’s the Olympics, so I think it was even a little more emotional. I’m kind of really disappointed now because I’m not that satisfied with my performance. I think I could have done a little more.”

Meanwhile, advancing in the women’s draw were: No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, who beat No. 51 Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who defeated No. 205 Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain, 6-3, 6-7 (0), 6-1; No. 7 seed Garbiñe Mugurza of Spain, who bested No. 48 Wang Qiang of China, 6-3, 6-0; and No. 8 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who d0wned No. 72 Leylah Fernandez of Canada, 6-2, 6-4.

Also, No. 9 seed Bencic defeated No. 93 Misaki Doi of Japan, 6-2, 6-4; No. 13 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of the ROC beat No. 129 Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany, 6-1, 6-1; No. 14 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece bested No. 92 Nina Stojanovic of Serbia, 6-1, 6-2; and No. 15 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan beat No. 56 Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, 6-2, 6-3.

Men’s draw playing true to form

The men’s draw played more true to form as Djokovic beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, 6-4, 6-3, in an hour and 14 minutes. The World No. 1 fired 14 aces and outpointed the 48th-ranked Struff 63-45. Next, Djokovic will play No. 16 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, who eliminated John Millman of Australia, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev of the ROC, No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, No. 6 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain and No. 15 Fabio Fognini of Italy all won to advance to the round of 16. Only one men’s seed lost Monday, No. 13 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, who fell to No. 41 Nikolaz Basilashvili of Georgia, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

Medvedev beat No. 160 Sumit Nagal of India, 6-2, 6-1; Zverev defeated No. 113 Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia, 6-2, 6-2; Carreño Busta rallied to advance over No. 37 Marin Cilic of Croatia, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4; and Fognini bested No. 79 Egor Gerasimov of Belarus, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

After Zverev’s win Monday, which advanced him to face Basilashvili, he said: “I played well, and I felt quite good on court, but I know the matches and opponents get tougher from now. I’ve got to play the same way and maybe compete even better. Some of the guys won’t let me play as well. That’s what the top guys do – they always find a way to disturb your rhythm a little bit. But yeah, today I had a good rhythm.”

Monday’s Olympics tennis results

Tuesday’s Olympics tennis order of play

Vintage Nishikori on display

Kei Nishikori‘s 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev on Sunday at Ariake Tennis Park was his first over a single-digit-ranked opponent since November 2018.

“It’s been a while [since] I’ve been playing like this,” Nishikori said, quoted by the ITF website. Five years ago, Nishikori won an Olympic bronze medal at the Rio Games.

“I was struggling playing Top-10 players the last couple of months, or maybe all this year. This is the first time I’m playing a very solid match. So, I’m happy of course beating Rublev, but also happy with my tennis today.”

Next, Nishikori plays Marcos Giron of the United States, who defeated Norbert Gombos of Slovakia, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-2.

Svitolina loves to rep her country

World No. 4 Elina Svitolina of Ukraine has reached the third round of the Olympic women’s singles tournament after winning her opening match on Sunday over Germany’s Laura Siegemund, then following it up with a victory over Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia. It advanced her to play against No. 14 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece.

During press on Sunday, Svitolina, who earlier this month married French tennis star Gaël Monfils, said she loves representing her country in team competition.

“The Olympics in Ukraine means, I think, even more than the Grand Slams, so I know how special it is,” said Svitolina, who plays Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic in the second round. “I love to play for my country, I love to represent blue and yellow, so it’s a very special feeling when I put my kit on and play for Ukraine.

“Billie Jean King Cup or Olympics, it’s something you can’t take for granted. We play almost every week at normal tournaments, but it’s very special here. I’m trying to do my best and give it my all.”

Opportunistic Purcell at the ready

Imagine you’re Max Purcell of Australia. The 190th-ranked Purcell was given the chance to play in both the Olympic singles and doubles tournaments as a replacement for injured Andy Murray of Great Britain (singles) and fellow countryman Alex de Minaur (doubles), who contracted Covid-19 on the eve of the Games.

On Sunday in his last-minute assignment, Purcell defeated ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, 6-4, 7-6 (2).

“I went on court just before 3 p.m and I found out [I was playing] just before 11 a.m. So, I had about four hours [notice],” Purcell said. “But the whole time I’ve been here I’ve been itching to play singles. So, I’m always ready.”

Unfortunately, Purcell wasn’t able to sustain the moment from his Sunday victory over Auger-Aliassime. On Monday, he lost 6-3, 6-0 to Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, ranked 59th.

By the numbers

“Quotable …”

“It’s good to be playing at home, especially this site. I’ve been playing here a lot – sometimes it feels like home, though with no spectators it’s tough. But I have to enjoy playing here – I know many people are watching on TV, so I just have to focus on what I have to do on the court.”

Kei Nishikori of Japan on playing in the Olympic Tennis Tournament in Tokyo.

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