Tokyo Olympics: Djokovic thriving off athletes' village energy as he marches on

By Sports Desk July 26, 2021

World number one Novak Djokovic made light work of Jan-Lennard Struff to continue his progress at the Olympic Games, and he revealed he is thriving off the energy in Tokyo as he copes with the weight of expectation.

Djokovic is aiming to complete a Golden Slam this year, having already swept up the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles.

Olympic gold is next on his list, before the Serbian will head to the US Open.

Struff was no match for the 34-year-old on Monday, as he teed up a round-of-16 tie with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina by beating the German 6-4 6-3.

Djokovic will be joined by fellow favourites Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev, as the singles competition begins to hot up.

 

DJOKOVIC THRIVING IN TOKYO

Djokovic is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to complete a Golden Slam, though even if he did not have such a feat in his sights, he would still have the expectation of clinching gold, given Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal chose not to compete.

"I think that once you reach the top spots of the rankings and start winning slams, you're going to experience different kinds of expectations and pressure from yourself and from people around," Djokovic said.

"It's kind of a normal thing that a lot of athletes from our sport have been experiencing in the past and it's going to happen in the future."

The 20-time grand slam champion also revealed he is splitting his time between a hotel and the Olympic athletes' village, as he looks to soak up the atmosphere in Tokyo, despite the ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

"I only stayed in the Olympic village the first few days in Rio, then I moved when the competition started to the hotel," he explained.

"Here, I'm between the hotel and the village but I'm spending every single day in the village mostly and the hotel is mostly for sleeping over, basically, and having my own routine in the morning.

"Other than that, I'm always in the village because it's just so special. Most of the tournaments I'm in a hotel anyway and this [Olympic Games] happens once in four years. Of course, I try to balance things out with keeping my own routines and things that make me feel good, but I'm thriving also on that wonderful energy in the village."

SPIDERCAM FACES ZVEREV'S WRATH

Alexander Zverev moved confidently into the round of 16, defeating Colombia's Daniel Elahi Galan Riveros 6-2 6-2 in just 71 minutes.

In fact, his greatest nemesis was the spidercam, which came a little too close for the German's comfort.

Zverev clipped a ball at the camera suspended above his head as he prepared to serve – the world number five claiming he almost hit the wire holding the device in place when he threw the ball.

"It was three meters above me, I almost hit the wire rope when I was throwing the ball. It just hung too low," he said, though the chair umpire disagreed.

There was ultimately no negative impact on Zverev's performance, and the 24-year-old will face Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili for a place in the last eight.

Basilashvili got the better of Italian world number 26 Lorenzo Sonego 6-4 3-6 6-4 to secure his progression.

 

MEDVEDEV MAKES HIS CLASS COUNT

The gulf in quality between Daniil Medvedev and Sumit Nagal of India was clear to see, as the world number two – who is representing the Russian Olympic Committee – cruised through in just 66 minutes.

Nagal, ranked 160th in the world, dropped serve in the first game of the match and never looked likely to recover, and the Australian Open runner-up breezed into the next round 6-2 6-1.

Medvedev will next go up against Italy's Fabio Fognini. The Russian has faced the world number 31 on four occasions, winning three times.

MURRAY (NO, NOT THAT ONE) DROPS OUT

Great Britain's Olympic team had a day to remember on Monday, but Jamie Murray and his doubles partner Neal Skupski could not carry on their run.

Kei Nishikori and Ben McLachlan, representing hosts Japan, got the better of the British duo 6-3 6-4.

Murray – whose brother Andy is also competing in the doubles but has withdrawn from the singles, in which he was defending champion – was called up as a late replacement for Dan Evans.

He has not made it past the second round in four Olympic Games, despite having won seven grand slam doubles titles.

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    Andy Murray said he intends to make the most of every appearance on Centre Court after recovering from one set down to beat James Duckworth in his Wimbledon opener.

    Two-time Wimbledon champion Murray took two hours and 43 minutes to record a 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 win over the Australian, maintaining his record of having never fallen at the first hurdle in SW19.

    Murray is making just his second Wimbledon appearance since 2017 and is looking to better last year's run to the third round, where he suffered a straight-sets reverse against Denis Shapovalov.

    Having endured a spate of injuries and undergone two hip surgeries since his last Wimbledon triumph in 2016, the 35-year-old said he will enjoy every opportunity he gets to play in front of a home crowd on Centre Court.

    "It's amazing to be back out here again with a full crowd after the last few years, amazing atmosphere," he said.

    "Obviously I'm getting on a bit now, so I don't know how many more opportunities I'll get to play on this court. I want to make the most of every time I get to come out here now.

    "I'm glad I managed to get through and hopefully I'll get another match on here in a couple of days."

    After fighting back to beat the world number 74, Murray expressed his hope he could grow into the tournament as he advances. 

    "I thought I did well to rebound after the first set, he likes playing on the grass, he's come back from a hip surgery himself in January and was playing very well," he added.

    "Once I started to find my returns a little bit more as the match went on, I felt a bit more comfortable and did well to get through.

    "Naturally, there's always nerves and pressure and butterflies and stress and all of those things before the first match, it was a longer build-up for me than usual because of the ab injury I had after Stuttgart [where Murray finished as runner-up earlier this month].

    "I've done a lot of practising here, I've been at the venue a lot in the last couple of weeks so yeah, it was great to get out here, get a win under my belt and hopefully I'll play better from here on in."

    Murray will face big-serving American John Isner in the second round on Wednesday, having won each of the duo's eight previous head-to-head meetings.

  • Wimbledon: Alcaraz not feeling title pressure after surviving 'great battle' with Struff Wimbledon: Alcaraz not feeling title pressure after surviving 'great battle' with Struff

    Carlos Alcaraz insisted he is not feeling any pressure to be among the Wimbledon favourites after coming through a marathon four-hour clash with Jan-Lennard Struff to reach the second round.

    Alcaraz, whose four Tour-level titles in 2022 are more than any other player on the ATP Tour, has been tipped for a deep run at Wimbledon after surging to seventh in the world rankings.

    But the 19-year-old was on the brink of a stunning first-round exit when he was taken to a fourth-set tie-break at 2-1 down on Monday, eventually recovering to post a gruelling 4-6 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-4 win on No. 1 Court.

    In his post-match media conference, the Spaniard reiterated last week's claim that he is not one of the favourites to triumph in London, although he said he could win the tournament if he plays to the best of his ability.

    "I don't feel the pressure because I don't rank myself as one of the favourites to win this tournament," Alcaraz said.

    "Obviously if I play well, I have [the] level to win the tournament, but there are a lot more experienced players on grass. I don't feel the pressure."

    Alcaraz also conceded his grass-court game can still improve as he hailed his tremendous serving display – which brought him 30 aces, as the reason for his victory.

    "I enjoyed [the match] a lot," he added. "Great battle over four hours. For me, [to] play on grass is so beautiful. I like to play on grass. 

    "I would say my level on grass has to improve a little bit, but I'm happy with my level.

    "I didn't expect to move as well as I did. I mean, I played really well, I felt really well playing on grass and I still don't know how I served [so well].

    "This is probably my best match serving. This was a weapon that I used [and] that's why I won – the serve, for sure."

    Alcaraz will face Tallon Griekspoor in the second round after the Dutch player overcame Fabio Fognini in four sets on day one.

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