Tokyo Olympics: Djokovic on Osaka lighting cauldron – It cannot be better for our sport

By Sports Desk July 24, 2021

Naomi Osaka lighting the Olympic cauldron will have helped increase the exposure for the sport of tennis around the world, according to Novak Djokovic.

Osaka was given the honour of carrying the torch on the short final leg at the Japan National Stadium before walking the steps to light the flame and end the opening ceremony.

The four-time grand slam champion is the face of the Tokyo Games in her home country, creating extra pressure on her shoulders as she bids to strike gold.

Djokovic appreciates the absences of legendary names Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is a blow, but he believes Osaka's presence is crucial for tennis in the battle for media coverage at the Games.

"It cannot be better for our sport, you are representing yourself, your country but also your sport in the Olympic Games, you're trying to get the hype and the attention towards our sport as much as you possibly can, so we're all contributing to that in the Olympic Village," Djokovic said when asked about Osaka's role in Friday's ceremony.

"There's a lot of attention towards the tennis players which is great, from the other athletes which is very nice to see, very nice to experience.

"Obviously you don't have Roger or Rafa. They are big stars and legends of our sport, but still there's quite a lot of great athletes, top players. Naomi is a home favourite and a lot of eyes are on her.

"Being at home playing is a lot of pressure, but it's great for our sport just in general to see that there's a lot of attention towards it."

 

Djokovic was speaking after overcoming Hugo Dellien with ease in his opening outing in the men's singles tournament, the Serbian triumphing 6-2 6-2 in just over an hour.

The quick win allowed the recently crowned Wimbledon champion to avoid staying out for too long in the Tokyo heat, an issue that led to Daniil Medvedev calling for matches to be pushed back to later in the day, allowing players to compete during the evenings when the temperatures have dropped.

"I agree with him 100 per cent," Djokovic said of Medvedev's suggestion. "I actually asked as well.

"My team captain, Viktor Troicki, was speaking to the referee a couple of times. To be honest, I don't understand why they don't start matches at say 3pm.

"I've heard for tennis there is some kind of curfew they have to finish at midnight, but if that's the case, I've just finished the last match and it's not even 5pm, we still have seven hours to play. 

"They have lights on all the courts, they're going to make life much easier for all of us tennis players, I just don't understand why they don't move it. 

"It's actually for the television broadcasters even better, because the later you play, the better it is for the United States and the time zones in Europe.

"I don't know, maybe the ITF (International Tennis Federation) can give you a better answer to why they chose to be played in the middle of the day. I doubt they will change the decision, but we're hoping that they will."

Related items

  • 'Rare' Tiafoe epic was unforgettable, says Murray 'Rare' Tiafoe epic was unforgettable, says Murray

    Andy Murray says he will never forget his memorable clash with Frances Tiafoe at the European Open in Antwerp.

    The former world number one saved two match points in the first round match and eventually triumphed 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8) in three hours and 45 minutes.

    Murray's victory in an epic clash was the longest three-set match of the 2021 ATP season.

    The battle had so many twists and turns that Murray, a veteran of 897 matches on tour, ended up having a long debrief with Tiafoe in the locker room afterwards.

    Murray revealed it was the first conversation of that nature he had been involved in for more than a decade.

    Indeed, the Briton only remembered going back over a match with one of his opponents twice before.

    "I spent probably 30 minutes in the locker room afterwards just chatting to Frances," Murray said. "I had a long chat with Frances afterwards so I'll probably remember that and then the embrace at the end. 

    "I guess so much went into it that I don't remember loads of points in the match, but obviously the end was special. 

    "I've never played a match like that on the tour really. In the locker room we had a much more in-depth chat about tennis - that was kind of rare I would say. 

    "I think maybe twice I've had that conversation in the locker room.

    "Once was with [Jurgen] Melzer at the US Open after I beat him in five sets [in 2008] and we chatted a bit about the match.

    "And then once after playing Jarkko Nieminen [at Wimbledon in 2010] because we were waiting to speak to the Queen after we played." 

    Murray faces a tough test in the last 16 as he is due to do battle with second seed Diego Schwartzman.

    He hit 21 aces against Tiafoe and totalled 46 winners to just 21 unforced errors, but Tiafoe was also in form with 51 winners to 25 unforced errors.

    "The margins were so fine," added Murray. "I served particularly well at the end, which helped, and when he missed his first serve on that match point I was able to capitalise on that.

    "There's obviously so much that goes into a match like that."

    Schwartzman will go into the next match fresher than Murray as the Argentine received a first-round bye due to his seeding.

  • Murray survives 'unbelievable battle' to down Tiafoe in Antwerp Murray survives 'unbelievable battle' to down Tiafoe in Antwerp

    Andy Murray saved two match points before winning an epic encounter with Frances Tiafoe at the European Open in Antwerp.

    The former world number one emerged triumphant from a gruelling contest lasting three hours and 45 minutes, the longest three-set match of the 2021 ATP season.

    Having warded off two match points in the decisive tie-break, Murray clinched a 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (10-8) victory with a drop shot that landed just out of Tiafoe's reach.

    "I think that's the first time in my career I've played a 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 [match]. I don't think I've ever played a match like that," said Murray, who next faces second seed Diego Schwartzman. "I think it's the longest three-set match I've played by quite a distance. I'm tired right now, obviously it was an unbelievable battle.

    "Nowadays obviously my body is old now. I've played a lot of matches on the tour. I don't mind playing long matches, but that was taking it to another level.

    "Brilliant match, amazing atmosphere, thanks to everyone who came and supported. It's just so nice to be back and playing in front of crowds again."

    American prospect Jenson Brooksby left his compatriot Reilly Opelka flummoxed as the fifth seed was beaten 6-4 6-4.

    Opelka was heard proclaiming Brooksby was the "best player I've played in my whole life" during the second set as he struggled to interpret the 20-year-old's service game. Brooksby will face Botic van de Zandschulp in the next round.

    There was another upset when sixth seed Alex de Minaur lost 6-4 6-0 to Brandon Nakashima, who has twice reached ATP-level finals this year and will next face Henri Laaksonen, victorious over Benoit Paire.

    Lorenzo Musetti needed two tie-breaks to defeat fellow Italian Gianluca Mager, while Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – quarter-finalist at the French Open this year – eased past Jordan Thompson 6-3 6-3.

    At the Kremlin Cup, fifth seed Alexander Bublik suffered a surprise straight-sets defeat to Illya Marchenko, the world number 164 winning by a 6-4 6-3 scoreline.

    Adrian Mannarino battled through against wildcard Roman Safiullin, but Laslo Djere lost in three sets to Gilles Simon.

    Ricardas Berankis and Egor Gerasimov also progressed, while Guido Pella retired from his match with Pedro Martinez.

  • Halep up and running in Kremlin Cup return Halep up and running in Kremlin Cup return

    Simona Halep reached the second round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday with a straight-sets win over home hope Anastasia Potapova.

    The former world number one, competing at the Moscow event for the first time since 2013, won 6-1 6-4 to set up a meeting with Veronika Kudermetova, who survived a marathon contest with qualifier Oksana Selekhmeteva.

    Anett Kontaveit, who won the title in Ostrava last month, prevailed 6-3 6-3 against Katerina Siniakova. Another seed, Wimbledon quarter-finalist Ons Jabeur, retired against Ekaterina Alexandrova when trailing 6-1 1-0.

    Andrea Petkovic also progressed when Jelena Ostapenko had to halt proceedings in their third set, while seventh seed Elena Rybakina lost in straight sets to Olympic silver medallist Marketa Vondrousova.

    At the Tenerife Open, Camila Giorgi progressed past Aliona Bolsova 7-6 (7-4) 3-6 6-4 despite giving up two penalty games due to repeated indiscretions when line calls were called into question.

    Fifth seed Viktorija Golubic lost in straight sets to Arantxa Rus, while Alison Riske was dispatched 6-1 6-4 by Donna Vekic.

    Seventh seed Clara Tauson defeated Heather Watson via a final-set tie-break, while Varvara Gracheva won in the same vein against third seed Sara Sorribes Tormo in a match lasting nearly three and a half hours.

    Top seed Elina Svitolina was one set up against Maria Camila Osorio Serrano when their match was suspended for the night.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.