Osaka’s Olympic Gold Medal Hopes Dashed By Vondrousova

Naomi Osaka and Marketa Vondrousova (photo: @ITFTennis/Twitter)

TOKYO/WASHINGTON, July 27, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

In an Olympic Tennis Event that has been full of surprises and daily upsets, another shocker took place in the women’s singles draw at Ariake Park Tuesday afternoon. No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan, who has been the public face of the Tokyo Summer Games since lighting the Olympic cauldron during Friday’s opening ceremonies, was eliminated in the third round by unseeded, 42nd-ranked Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-4.


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After racing out to a 4-0 lead in the opening set, the 22-year-old Czech left-hander recovered from an early break in the second set and broke the World No. 2 Osaka for the fifth time during the 68-minute Centre Court match to clinch the victory.

Although Vondrousova hit just eight winners, she also only committed 10 unforced errors compared to six winners and 31 unforced errors by Osaka, the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion.

Vondrousova won 87 percent of her first-serve points while Osaka paled with just a 58-percent efficiency. She outpointed her opponent 66-47 to move into the quarterfinal round against Spain’s 29th-ranked Paula Badosa, who advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 38 Nadia Podoroska of Argentina.

“I think this is one of the biggest [wins of my career], for sure,” Vondrousova said, quoted by the ITF website. “I beat Simona [Halep] twice, but I think Naomi, she is the greatest now, the greatest in the game, and she’s also the face of the Olympics. It was tough for her, I think, to play like this. But I’m too happy now.”

After the match, Osaka spoke to press and admitted feeling the dual pressure of playing in her first Olympic Games and in her home country of Japan. She also said she didn’t know when she would play next.

“For me, I feel like I should be used to it by now,” she said. “But at the same time, I think the scale of everything is a bit higher because of the break that I took. I’m glad I didn’t lose the first round, at least.

“I’m really glad to be here. I’m sad that I lost, of course, but all in all really happy with my first Olympic experience.”

With Osaka’s departure, she became the third of the top four seeds to be eliminated. Heading into Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, it means that No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 winner over No. 14 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, is the highest remaining seed left in the draw.

The upper half of the draw features four seeded players, led by No. 7 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain and No. 9 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland.

Muguruza defeated unseeded Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium, ranked 59th, 6-4, 6-1, while Bencic upset No. 8 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. Next, Muguruza will face No. 15 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who bested No. 50 Donna Vekic of Croatia, 7-6 (3), 6-4, overcoming a service break in both sets; and Bencic will oppose No. 13 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of the ROC, who turned in another strong performance in defeating No. 47 Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, 6-1, 6-3.

In the lower half of the draw, the World No. 6 Svitolina will face unseeded No. 61 Camila Giorgi of Italy, who upset No. 5 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-2, while Vondrousova will oppose Badosa.

“I know [Giorgi’s] game. It’s not going to be a big surprise for me,” Svitolina said after her victory Tuesday. “She strikes the ball big, so I have to be ready for that. It’s going to be another tough battle, so I’ll try and bring my best game.”

Tsitsipas avenges Wimbledon loss against Tiafoe

In the men’s draw, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece was the highest seed in action and he continued his quest for an Olympic gold medal with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over American Frances Tiafoe on Centre Court with the roof closed due to rain.

With lessons learned from his recent first-round loss to Tiafoe at Wimbledon, the No. 3 seed Tsitsipas, who won 84 percent of his first-serve points and was not broken. He served nine aces and hit 13 winners against Tiafoe while converting two of four break-point opportunities.


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“I’m always trying to find solutions, find ways to fix my mistakes and get a better outcome – that was the case today,” the World No. 4 Tsitsipas said. “I was able to maintain the high levels of concentration and deliver good tennis in moments where I had to.

“It was a very-well balanced game, mentally.”

Next, Tsitsipas will take on No. 14 seed Ugo Humbert of France, who recovered from a set down to beat No. 52 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5.

Other seeds advancing were: No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman, who beat No. 148 Tomas Machac of the Czech Repubic, 6-4, 7-5; and No. 12 seed Karen Khachanov of the ROC, who easily defeated No. 77 James Duckworth of Australia, 7-5, 6-1. Schwartzman and Khachanov will square off in the round of 16.

There were two men’s seeds who were eliminated: No. 7 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, who was upset by 143rd-ranked Liam Broady of Great Britain, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3; and No. 11 seed Aslan Karatsev of the ROC, who fell to No. 68 Jeremy Chardy of France, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

“I don’t think anyone expects very much of me and that works well for me,” Broady said after garnering the biggest victory of his career against the World No. 12 Hurkacz, which advanced him to play Chardy in the next round. “Over the last year and a half, I’ve started to put a few results together and started to build stable foundations within my tennis off the court, and that’s starting to pay off this year.”

Finally, 69th-ranked Kei Nishikori of Japan, who was a bronze medalist at the 2016 Rio Games, reached the round of 16 after winning a tough battle against No. 65 Marcos Giron of the United States, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-1. Next, he will play No. 66 Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, who defeated No. 127 Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-3. Nishikori is also still alive in the men’s doubles quarterfinals with Ben McLachlan.

Tuesday’s Olympics tennis results

Wednesday’s Olympics tennis order of play

Krejcikova relishing Olympic experience

French Open singles and doubles champion Barbora Krejcikova is part of a very deep and talented Czech Republic women’s tennis group that is competing in Tokyo, along with Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova, Marketa Vondrousova and Katerina Siniakova.

Krejcikova’s told the ITF website that she really likes the Olympic Village experience. “I like to spend time with other athletes from Czech Republic,” she said. “We have a little room where we watch TVs and support our athletes. That is really nice. And I like having the chance to meet and talk to them – I love to hear their stories and get inspired because they are all here as the best in their sports. This is the best part of the Olympics so far.”

Switzerland’s history of tennis medals

There’s no Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka at the Tokyo Games – both are recovering from injuries – and Timea Bacsinszky and Martina Hingis are both retired. So, it leaves World No. 11 Belinda Bencic in a leading role trying to secure Switzerland’s fifth Olympic medal in tennis. Bencic is alive in both singles and doubles with Viktorija Golubic.

Tuesday proved to be a busy but rewarding day for Bencic. After securing a quarterfinal berth in singles, she and Golubic reached the doubles quarterfinals with a 3-6, 6-1, 11-9 triumph over Garbiñe Mugurza and Carla Suárez Navarro of Spain after saving a match point.

Federer and Wawrinka shared a doubles gold at Beijing in 2008, then Federer won a singles silver in London in 2012, and Bacsinszky and Hingis won a doubles silver in Rio in 2016.

“I think in a country like we have with Switzerland,” Bencic told the ITF website, “I think the people are expecting very much. They are very, how do you say in nice words … spoiled to have good results.

“I’m just grateful that I can be one of them. .I never imagined that I could be in this era of Swiss tennis. I’m very happy I can actually here. I’m not taking it as a pressure, but as a privilege.”

Mektic and Pavic reach doubles quarterfinals

Croatia’s Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, the top-seeded team in the men’s doubles event, have reached the quarterfinal round, but not without a scare. On Monday, they went the distance before defeating Italy’s duo of LorenzosMusetti and Sonego – 7-5, 6-7 (5), 10-7. Next, they will face Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Ben McLachlan, who eliminated No. 7 seeds Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski of Great Britain, 6-3, 6-4.

No. 3 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah of Columbia are also through to the quarterfinals as are Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus of New Zealand, who received a walkover when Jean-Julien Rojer and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands were removed from the draw due to Rojer contracting Covid-19.

Meanwhile, as the women’s doubles quarterfinals take shape, there’s an Aussie feel as both of Australia’s teams – No. 6 seeds Ashleigh Barty and Storm Sanders and unseeded Ellen Perez and Samantha Stosur – have reached the last eight.

In the quarterfinal round, Barty and Sanders will play the No. 1 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, who reached the last eight with a 6-2, 5-7, 10-5 win over Paula Badosa and Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain.

By the numbers

• World No. 1 and men’s top seed Novak Djokovic, who has advanced to the third round of the Olympic Tennis Tournament, is now on a 20-match winning streak. It’s the eighth time in Djokovic’s career that he’s won 20 or more tour-level matches in a row – most of any active men’s player. Roger Federer (7) and Rafael Nadal (6) have the next-most, respectively.

Djokovic’s last loss? May 16 in the Rome final against Nadal, 7-5, 1-6, 6-3. As he readies to play No. 16 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in Wednesday’s round of 16, Djokovic is 36-3.

“The Olympics and the US Open are obviously my biggest objectives for the remainder of the season, and it’s going to be demanding,” Djokovic said recently in Tokyo. “But I am full of confidence and motivated to represent Serbia in the best possible way. I am yearning for a medal in Tokyo, hopefully gold, and then Ill go to New York aiming to complete it all.”

• With her third-round victory on Tuesday, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of the ROC, set a record for the fewest games lost in reaching the women’s singles quarterfinal since Olympic tennis returned as a full-medal sport in 1988. The 13th seed has dropped just seven games in compiling wins against Sara Errani, Anna-Lena Friedsam and Sara Sorribes Tormo.

“Quotable …”

“I think it would be much harder [to take] if I didn’t have a medal in Rio.”

Petra Kvitova, Rio Games bronze medalist in singles, who lost in Monday’s second round to Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium.

It means a lot, to be honest. You’re not only playing for yourself, you’re playing for your whole country, for everybody that is watching in Germany, and the other athletes here.”

Alexander Zverev, on his aspirations of winning an Olympic medal.

Thank you, Kiki Bertens

Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands closed out her distinguished tennis career at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday. Bertens, 29, earlier this year announced her retirement.

After the 16th seed Bertens was eliminated in the first round of the singles draw by Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in three sets on Saturday, she and Demi Schuurs, seeded third, lost in the second round of the doubles competition to Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina of the ROC, 6-2, 3-6, 10-7.