Tokyo Olympics: Djokovic thankful for delayed start time in 'draining' conditions

By Sports Desk July 28, 2021

Novak Djokovic has welcomed the International Tennis Federation's (ITF) decision to delay the start of matches until 3:00pm (local time) at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.

The world number one has cruised through to the quarter-finals, where he will meet home favourite Kei Nishikori, but he – along with many others – had complained of heat and humidity causing problems due to contests starting too early.

That decision has come after world number two Daniil Medvedev struggled with conditions as he was forced to use two medical timeouts on Wednesday to cope with the heat and subsequently asked chair umpire Carlos Ramos, per ESPN, "If I die, are you going to be responsible?"

The pushback now means the majority of the games in the closing stages will be played in slightly cooler conditions in order to protect player welfare amid growing health concerns.

Speaking after a 6-3 6-4 mixed doubles win with Nina Stojanovic against Brazil's Luisa Stefani and Marcelo Melo, the Serbian expressed gratitude for the ITF's decision, though he felt it should have come earlier.

"It was nice news to receive," Djokovic said. "It's better than starting at 11:00am. It's not just in my opinion. I've spoken to six out of eight quarter-finalists in men's singles and everyone is in favour of starting later because the conditions are really brutal.

"It's very good [news] because you don't want to see situations like what we saw today with Paula Badosa [who retired after the first set].

"I've played tennis now professionally for 20 years, and I've never faced these kind of conditions in my entire life on a consecutive daily basis.

"I did experience certain similar days, one day in Miami or New York, or sometimes it happens here and there, but it's one or two days, and then it passes. Here is every single day. So, it's really draining players' energy, and you just don't feel yourself."

After gymnast Simone Biles' withdrawal to protect her mental health, Djokovic outlined the pressures that come with professional sport, too.

"Pressure is a privilege, my friend. Without pressure, there is no professional sport," he continued.

"If you are aiming to be at the top of the game, you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments on the court, but also off the court.

"I've developed the mechanism on how to deal with it in such a way that it will not pose a distraction to me. It will not wear me down. I feel I have enough experience to know myself how to step on the court and play my best tennis.”

Djokovic, who was unsure if he had ever played in an "official" mixed doubles competition, and Stojanovic will now face Germany's Laura Siegemund and Kevin Krawietz in the quarter-final.

Despite limited experience, the six-time Wimbledon winner enjoyed the outing and was surprised how quickly he and Stojanovic understood each other's games.

"We did not chat about the tactics too much," the 34-year-old added. "We know each other, but we've never really played in the opposite ends of the net, or the same side of the net, so it was amazing how well we clicked from the beginning."

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    Nick Kyrgios threw in an underarm serve in the second game of his Australian Open campaign, before tossing in a curveball in the post-match news conference.

    Speaking after his 6-4 6-4 6-3 win over an outmatched Liam Broady on John Cain Arena, Kyrgios proposed he might play doubles with Novak Djokovic in the future.

    Australian Kyrgios has dramatically changed his tune on the Serbian, but not in the way many have altered their perspective following recent events.

    Djokovic was deported from Australia in the hours before the Australian Open got under way, a consequence of his own failure to get a COVID-19 vaccine and seemingly mixed messages from authorities before a court settled the kerfuffle.

    His behaviour in December after a positive COVID-19 test has been widely criticised, and the reputation of arguably the greatest tennis player of all time has taken a battering in the past fortnight.

    Kyrgios recently observed the treatment of Djokovic, a nine-time champion of the Melbourne Park grand slam, had been "really bad" and said it was important to "do better" by the 20-time slam winner.

     

    The 26-year-old from Canberra has emerged as an unlikely cheerleader for the player he described as "a tool" and "a very strange cat" last February, after Djokovic was reported to have requested improved quarantine accommodation on arriving in Australia.

    Now Kyrgios is revelling in his apparent sudden popularity in Serbia, where Djokovic's banishment from Australia was greeted with anger and dismay.

    "I mean, it's great," Kyrgios said of his new standing. He then turned his focus to why he has stood up for his new friend.

    "Obviously me and Novak have had some, I guess, differences in the past. But whether it was Novak or someone else, I would have done the same thing," he said.

    "I didn't do it because he was Serbian. If it was another player in that scenario, I would have stood up for what I think was right.

    "I think it was just coincidentally it was Novak, and, you know, it was quite a story. But we've got a bit of a bromance going on now, so I'm not going to complain.

    "I think I'm going to ask him to play doubles somewhere."

    It remains to be seen where this might next prove possible. Djokovic might find he needs a vaccination to play the French Open and US Open this year, amid reports an increasing number of tournaments will insist on players being immunised as a condition of entry.

    Kyrgios, meanwhile, faced a daunting second-round match in Melbourne, with title favourite and de facto top seed Daniil Medvedev awaiting him.

  • Australian Open: Raducanu defeats Stephens in battle of US Open champions Australian Open: Raducanu defeats Stephens in battle of US Open champions

    Emma Raducanu triumphed in a battle of US Open champions as she started her Australian Open campaign with victory over Sloane Stephens.

    The 19-year-old stunned the tennis world when she claimed the title at Flushing Meadows last year after progressing all the way through the qualifying rounds and main draw without dropping a set.

    The Briton struggled to build on those famous two weeks in New York, losing four of her next six matches including a 0-6 1-6 thrashing by Elena Rybakina at this month's Sydney Tennis Classic.

    However, she put that result firmly behind her with an impressive 6-0 2-6 6-1 defeat of Stephens in her first match in the main draw of the Melbourne grand slam.

    The first set was in keeping with Raducanu's US Open performance as she clinched it in just 17 minutes while dropping only four points.

    But American Stephens, champion in her home slam in 2017, fought back in the second set and set up a decider with a forehand winner.

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    "I think it was a really high-quality match, with some very long rallies. I'm very happy to come through against a great champion like her."

     

  • Australian Open: 'F***', it was like a zoo' – Kyrgios reacts to Ronaldo copycat chants Australian Open: 'F***', it was like a zoo' – Kyrgios reacts to Ronaldo copycat chants

    Nick Kyrgios compared the crowd during his Australian Open first-round win to a zoo as fans copied a famous Cristiano Ronaldo celebration at almost every point.

    Cries of 'siuu' could be heard throughout much of the home favourite's straight-sets victory over Liam Broady, his first match since a Laver Cup defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in September.

    The shouts were apparently mimicking Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo's famous goal celebration.

    There were similar incidents during Andy Murray's battling five-set win over Nikoloz Basilashvili, as the five-time finalist won his first match at the Melbourne major since 2017.

    The raucous crowds caused confusion as many observers wondered if Murray and Kyrgios were being booed on court, despite each player also enjoying huge support.

    Kyrgios later explained he was not surprised to hear the noise from the stands but was taken aback by how long they persisted.

    "It's just a stupid, f***, I can't believe they did it so much," he said after his 6-4 6-4 6-3 victory on John Cain Arena. "They were doing some Ronaldo thing. Ronaldo does it every time he scores.

    "It's like... I thought they were going to do it for like 10 minutes. They did it for two and a half hours, like, every point. I don't know why. It was a zoo out there."

    Murray had wondered if the crowd was turning on him during his epic 6-1 3-6 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 victory because he had been targeted during his practice session on Monday.

    "Initially, I thought it was [booing] because there were some people booing during my practice yesterday," he said. "I have no idea what for! 

    "But then, after a few times, it was like, no, they're doing that, I think it's like 'Siuu' or something that Ronaldo does when he scores. And, yeah, it was incredibly irritating!"

    Kyrgios produced some superb if often unorthodox tennis as he booked a second-round clash with world number two Daniil Medvedev, who is the highest-ranked male in the draw following the refusal to allow Novak Djokovic to compete.

    The 26-year-old would like to return to John Cain to aid his chances of improving his record against the Russian to 3-0.

    "It's going to be a hell of an experience for me," he said. "He's probably 'the' best player in the world at the moment. So I'm pretty excited, I'm excited for that moment. That's why I play the game.

    "I feel like those matches still excite me, to go out there and play the best in the world. That was always something I wanted to prove to people that someone like me could do, win those matches.

    "I'm not going to go into it with a lot of expectation. I'm going to go out there, have some fun, play my game. I have a pretty set-in-stone game plan of what I need to do to have success.

    "As I said, he's probably the best player in the world, he does everything extremely well. He's a hard worker, ticks all the boxes. I'm not going to even think about that now. To play it on John Cain would be – I'm just going to call it the Kyrgios Court – would be fun."

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