Novak Djokovic has leapt from one bubble into another as he attempts to become the first man in tennis history to win all four grand slams and Olympic gold in the same year.

The only men to have won each of the singles majors across their careers, plus Olympic gold, are Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal, and now Djokovic aims to move to the brink of winning all five in his remarkable 2021 season.

Fresh from dominating at Wimbledon, and with the Australian and French Open titles already in the bag, Djokovic heads into the Tokyo Games as a red-hot favourite, seeking to set himself up to complete a historic campaign at the US Open.

Naomi Osaka will enter the Games with almost as much expectation behind her too, the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion eyeing glory for hosts Japan.

But tennis has thrown up a host of shock results in its short Olympic history. Here, Stats Perform looks at the sport's place in the Games.

 

WHO'S IN, WHO'S OUT, AND WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have all opted out of the Olympics.

Williams made her mind up prior to suffering a leg injury at Wimbledon, although she is already a member of the career Golden Slam club.

Federer reached his decision after revealing he also suffered a physical setback at the All England Club, and Nadal elected to take a two-month break after relinquishing his French Open title.

Don't expect to see them again at the Olympics, given Williams and Federer will be pushing 43 by Paris 2024, and Nadal will be 38. Federer won a doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka in 2008, but his singles peak was the silver medal he earned in 2012, Andy Murray crushing Swiss hopes in the final at Wimbledon.

Dominic Thiem, Bianca Andreescu, Nick Kyrgios, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Denis Shapovalov are among other confirmed absentees, with fitness issues a factor for some, less so for others.

The COVID-19 crisis is a mitigating factor in why so many stars are staying away, and directly responsible in the case of some players, such as Britain's Johanna Konta and Dan Evans, who both tested positive recently.

But tennis was only fully restored to the Olympic programme in 1988, after being dropped post 1924, and if players are seen to be favouring the grand slams over the Games, that is not such a great look for the sport.

At a time when the International Olympic Committee has shown it is willing to shake up the sports on its programme, tennis could perhaps do with a headline-making Tokyo 2020.

Murray, the two-time defending men's champion, will target an improbable hat-trick. A hat-trick for the injury-hit former world number one would be a sensation, and Osaka landing gold in the women's tournament would surely be one of the great moments of the Games.

 

DJOKOVIC FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GRAF

When Steffi Graf beat Gabriela Sabatini in the women's singles final at Seoul, it completed what we know now as the calendar 'Golden Slam'. She had already won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, and the feat of the then 19-year-old West German has yet to be repeated.

Now Djokovic is three-fifths of the way to a similar clean sweep of the majors and the Olympics, with the US Open getting under way on August 30 in New York.

He teetered on not going to Tokyo, and perhaps he is to some extent endangering his chances at Flushing Meadows by spending more time travelling and enduring bubble life, while others rest up.

But Djokovic is a fiercely proud Serbian and could not resist a great chance of winning gold for his country. He landed bronze at the 2008 Games in Beijing but in 2012 he lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the bronze-medal match, and a cruel draw at Rio four years later saw him assigned Del Potro in the first round.

Top seed Djokovic bowed out in two tie-breaks to the powerful Argentinian, describing the outcome as "one of the toughest losses in my career".

There is no danger of a hat-trick of defeats to Del Potro, which may help Djokovic. Del Potro has been battling for two years to get back to fitness, undergoing four rounds of right knee surgery in a bid to get back on tour.

 

RAISING THE BAR AT THE OLYMPICS

How the Olympic village functions in Tokyo will be distinctly different to at previous Games, given the pandemic restrictions in place that could be a real buzzkill.

But in the past there have been countless cases of athletes becoming inspired by their surroundings and going on to perform above their usual level.

It can be a party village, and it can also be an eyebrow-raising experience as global superstars rub shoulders with competitors who might struggle for recognition in their home towns. More than anything, the shared team experience, fighting for a collective cause, can make a middling athlete believe they can be great.

Monica Puig was a massive tennis outsider in 2016 but the then world number 34 won the women's singles, stunning Angelique Kerber in the final after beating Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza en route. That gave Puerto Rico their first ever Olympic gold medal.

In 1992, a tournament that featured the likes of Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker finished with a staggering final match-up of Marc Rosset versus Jordi Arrese, who in his home city of Barcelona was edged out 8-6 in the fifth set by the Swiss world number 43. Nobody would have predicted that head to head for gold.

Similarly, at Athens 2004, Nicolas Massu beat Mardy Fish in the gold medal match of a tournament that featured Federer, Andy Roddick, Carlos Moya and Tim Henman.

In the 1996 Atlanta Games, Lindsay Davenport, who had just turned 20, took inspiration from being the daughter of an Olympian, with dad Wink having played volleyball for the United States at Mexico City in 1968.

Davenport was beginning to make an impact on the WTA Tour but was only the ninth seed at the Olympics, yet she swept through the rounds before sinking Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 in the final.

"It's like one of those things I look back on and I'm like, 'Was that me?'," Davenport told The Tennis Podcast last year.

"It doesn't seem like it was real. I'd made the transition to the pro tour pretty well, but I liked hanging out between eight and 16 in the rankings. I was very insecure, unsure of what could I do. I liked doing well but I wasn't sure I wanted to do too well because it seemed really overwhelming to be one of those top players.

"Here I go at 20 years old to Atlanta for two or three weeks, in a setting that seemed so comfortable. Look at all these athletes, you have all different shapes and sizes, you have players that are really working hard but have so much in common and you get to hang out with them, breakfast, lunch, dinner in the village."

Davenport was a future world number one and three-time grand slam singles champion, but at this point in her career being an American at an Olympics in the United States was just a thrill.

"You're sharing this with your team-mates who are some of my best friends in Mary Joe Fernandez, Monica Seles. It was the best time ever," she said.

"By the time the tournament actually started we were like, 'Yeah, I'll go play my match and then we'll go back to the village and we'll hang out', and everything went so fast in those few weeks.

"And there I was left standing, winning at the end because I was so incredibly happy and excited with everything that was going on. I kind of forgot what was my job.

"When it became a reality of even just making the team in '96, it was so huge also for my family with having a second generation Olympian."

Sweden ended the United States' 44-game unbeaten run with a 3-0 win in the Olympics group stage on Wednesday and Megan Rapinoe hailed them as one of the best European sides ever.

Strikes either side of the half-time whistle from Stina Blackstenius and a goal by Lina Hurtig proved the difference as Sweden claimed a famous triumph over their heavyweight rivals, who they defeated on penalties in the 2016 quarter-finals.

The world champions enjoyed a two-year spell without losing before the Group G opener but will quickly have to bounce back if they are to follow up their France 2019 success with Olympic gold.

Rapinoe found it hard to defend the USA's performance as she credited Sweden's hard-working display.

"We did not play a very good game and that is to take nothing away from Sweden, they played a great game," the attacking midfielder said after the match.

"This is the highest level and these are the best teams in the world. Sweden are one of the best ever in Europe and the world. If we don't play well we don’t win these games.

"We want to be a lot better, we played a bit tight and hurt ourselves a lot. You can't say one thing specifically.

"I can't remember the last time we gave up a goal, so to give up three is not great but we know what we need to do to win these games, get out of the group and go from there."

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski refused to panic and is keen to see a response against New Zealand on Saturday.

"It has put us in a big hole and we are the only ones who can get ourselves out of it," he said. "It is not going to be easy. We have to get good results in the next two games, but I know this team will not give up.

"I don’t remember this team losing 3-0 in recent history so it is a bit of a shock, but everyone is positive. We still have games ahead of us. We have got to bounce back. We have to forget this game and focus on the next one."

In contrast, Blackstenius, whose brace sealed a remarkable victory, spoke glowingly of her team, who were without Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson for the win.

"I'm very happy about the goals - of course I'm happy to score. The team helped me very much and I think I could have scored at least two more but I don't want to focus on that. I'm just happy and proud of the team", the forward said.

“We developed our game and our play. It's very good and we have so much quality in every player. Every player is also very different from the other. We have so many players that can do good stuff and as a team we are very good. Every player is very happy about going very attacking."

Hedvig Lindahl, though, maintained that Sweden's win was simply a starting point and that Peter Gerhardsson's side had not achieved what they had come to the Games for yet.

"It's just the first group game, we haven't won anything yet. We need to keep going," the veteran goalkeeper said. "If you have one high into lows in the group then this means nothing. But to win against the USA, it's something we can take some confidence from.

"You can go very far in a tournament even if you lose to the USA or whoever you play in the first game, so I don't know how much it means, but we showed the world and ourselves that we can play good against a team like the US and any team."

Kevin Durant believes rivals of the United States will go into the Tokyo Olympics confident of producing an upset.

Winners of the last three Olympic gold medals, the USA are strong favourites to make it four in a row, with Australia and Spain seen as their closest challengers.

But Team USA have had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, defeated by Nigeria and Australia in exhibition games, though they did beat Spain in their final warm-up contest in Las Vegas.

They have lost significant players including having to make two late roster changes, adding JaVale McGee and Keldon Johnson to replace Kevin Love and Bradley Beal. 

Love withdrew with a calf injury, while Beal had to drop out due to health and safety protocols. 

USA face France in Saitama for their Group A opener on July 25 and Durant feels the favourites must be on guard.

"All of them [Olympic tournaments] are difficult," he said. "Every team wants to beat us, everybody wants to see us lose, so every game has a little bit more pressure to it. 

"A lot of guys dropped out, a lot of circumstances, and I'm sure other teams are seeing us lose and feel confident coming into the tournament.

"But we understand what we're getting ourselves into and we're looking forward to the challenge."

Durant feels like the team is starting to come together after those exhibition defeats.

The Brooklyn Nets forward added: "I feel like we're understanding what coach wants from us on both ends of the floor.

"Guys are getting more comfortable with each other and their roles on the team, and that's only going to bode well for us as we start to play real games. 

"So it was good to kind of get a punch in the mouth early on to remind us that it's not gonna be a cakewalk. 

"And so many people are used to Team USA coming in and blowing everybody out, so it was good for us to see that. Now, hopefully, those are the last losses."

After the conclusion of the NBA Finals, head coach Gregg Popovich is poised to welcome Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday to the set-up.

He is not sure how quickly the trio will adapt to new surroundings but is glad to have them en route.

"Well, there's not a whole lot you can do when they get here the day before," said Popovich.

"It's pretty obvious that they won't know everything that’s been going on, but luckily it's basketball. We'll try to keep it simple and just take care of what we think we can take care of.

"The good thing is they'll be in shape. I don't know how the plane's gonna affect them, that's not an easy flight. 

"It is true that they won't be as ready to play in the sense of execution that we might want, but that's understandable

"We are not sure [how we will incorporate them]. Something like that is pretty unique, there's no paradigm or game plan or rulebook.

"So it's something we'll discuss the rest of the week and just do what we think is best - it'll be an interesting situation for sure."

Popovich was asked if the players will have any film or play packages to review on the flight to Tokyo.

"They're gonna sleep," he replied.

In a further boost to the roster, USA guard Zach LaVine has cleared health and safety protocols so he will also travel to Tokyo and join up with the team.

The United States got off to an awful start in Tokyo as they lost 3-0 to Sweden to end a 44-match unbeaten streak, while Brazil's Marta enjoyed differing emotions as she netted against China in a 5-0 win to make Olympic Games history.

The USA came into the Games as firm favourites for the gold medal, but Sweden offered a rude awakening for the reigning world champions. They had previously not been defeated since back in 2019 before that run was ended by their emphatic setback in the Group G opener.

Goals either side of half-time from Stina Blackstenius and another from Lina Hurtig did the damage, and while the USA were denied twice by the woodwork, Sweden were deserved winners to repeat their quarter-final shoot-out victory over the same opposition at Rio 2016.

In fact, Sweden's three-goal win was the first time since 2008 that the USA have lost in a major tournament by multiple goals and only the sixth time in their history that they have lost a game by three or more goals.

While the USA struggled, Brazil gave an early signal of their intent. Marta's opener made her the first player, male or female, to score at five consecutive Games, while the 35-year-old also moved to second in the all-time top scorer list at the Olympics.

The Brazil forward's record-breaking outing in Group F stole the headlines, but 43-year-old Formiga made history herself. She became the first women's footballer to appear in seven editions of the Games, and is hoping to become the oldest female representing Brazil to claim an Olympic medal, a record previously held by 38-year-old volleyball star Fofao. 

In more routine fashion, Great Britain got off to a strong Group E start as they cruised past Chile 2-0, with Ellen White netting both goals. 

White spoke of her pride after the win and credited her team-mates who provided the chances for her brace.

"I'm obviously delighted to contribute to the team winning, to score two goals. I feel really proud to open the Olympics with Team GB," the forward said.

"It was a great header down from Lauren Hemp for the first one and an amazing cross from Lucy Bronze for the second.

"We've been working really hard to get to this point. I feel really delighted with where I'm at the moment, but I feel there's still more to come. Collectively as a squad we [can] grow and get better as the tournament goes on."

Team GB and Chile both took the knee, as did the USA and Sweden in their fixture, as athletes across the globe continue to make a stand against racism.

Meanwhile, Barbra Banda announced herself on the world stage with a hat-trick, despite Zambia going down 10-3 to the Netherlands. 

The Netherlands led 6-1 at half-time following Vivianne Miedema's hat-trick and a brace from Lieke Martens. 

Sarina Wiegman’s side then added four more goals in the second half, with Miedema getting a fourth, before Banda hit back twice in the final 10 minutes. 

Brazil great Marta has become the first footballer in history to score in five consecutive Olympic Games.

Marta scored the opener from close range after nine minutes and later added a second-half strike as Brazil thrashed China 5-0 to open their campaign in Japan.

The 35-year-old made her Olympics debut back in 2004 when the Games were held in Athens.

Marta went on to score in the Beijing, London and Rio tournaments before also netting in Tokyo on Wednesday. 

She is yet to win the Olympics, though, earning silver medals in 2004 and 2008.

Marta's team-mate Formiga, who is impressively still playing at 43, also broke records by playing against China.

An astonishing 25 years on from her Olympics debut in Atlanta in 1996, Formiga has become the oldest player in the history of football at the Games.

She is also the first Brazilian to compete in seven editions of the Olympics.

Next up for Brazil is a clash with Netherlands on Saturday.

Dani Alves has revealed he has nerves and "butterflies" as he prepares to finally make his Olympics debut at the age of 38.

Sao Paulo defender Alves has 118 caps and four trophies for the senior Brazil team but has never previously played at the Games.

He is one of the over-age players for the Selecao in Tokyo and it is an opportunity he is relishing and even apprehensive about despite his illustrious career at club and international level.

Brazil are among the favourites to win the men's competition along with Spain and France.

They open their campaign against Germany in Group D on Thursday.

"As it is my first time, the feeling is even more special," said Alves, who will captain the team.

"Despite the fact I have great experiences in the past, as it's my first time here I feel butterflies on my stomach and I hope to live up to the expectations of the competition and of our national team.

"I can say my experience will be similar to those that are also coming here for the first time.

"Being here is really a special feeling. As we say, third time lucky. I tried twice, I could not and the third time I managed. So here I am.

"I would like to thank you also for the respect, for the opportunity to be here. Those of you that know me know that I have a young spirit."

Brazil beat Germany on penalties in the final of the Rio Olympics five years ago to clinch the gold medal on home soil.

Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia are the other teams in a competitive pool.

"Indeed, it is a classic [fixture]," coach Andre Jardine said of the opener against Germany. "It has had a wonderful track record and it is an honour to be part of history.

"Both teams have mutual respect for each other and I expect that it will be a difficult game. It will focus on the detail, on the strategy and also on the concentration.

"I hope that we enjoy and that we are able to write one more page on the history and I hope this page is the Brazilian one."

The men's side will hope to emulate the women's team, who got their Olympics campaign off to an impressive start with a 5-0 win over China.

Brisbane has been formally confirmed as the host of the 2032 Olympic Games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had already made the Australian city in the state of Queensland its preferred candidate and no other hosts were considered.

Brisbane is the first bid to win the right to host the Olympics uncontested since the 1984 Games staged in Los Angeles.

The bid proposed 32 venues, with The Gabba stadium, a prominent international cricket venue, set to be refurbished as part of the proposals.

The Gabba is in line to host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the leading athletics events.

India, Indonesia, Qatar, Germany and Spain had all been interested in hosting the Games but did not advance to IOC board approval, with Brisbane fast-tracked.

Australia has twice staged the Olympics previously, in Melbourne (1956) and Sydney (2000).

Following the delayed 2020 Games in Tokyo, which started on Wednesday, the Olympics will go to Paris in 2024 and LA in 2028 before Brisbane four years later.

Real Madrid midfielder and former Arsenal loanee Dani Ceballos is relishing the prospect of combining with Spain's Olympic head coach Luis de la Fuente in Tokyo, having previously worked with him at Under-19 level.

Spain head into the Tokyo Olympics as one of the favourites for the gold medal, given De la Fuente has been able to call upon six players that reached the semi-final stages at Euro 2020 with the senior national side.

The names of their star-studded line-up would be enough to frighten any Olympic opposition as they have included Pedri, Unai Simon, Dani Olmo, Mikel Oyarzabal, Eric Garcia and Pau Torres.

While the players on the pitch paint an attractive picture that could see Spain win their second gold and first since 1992, Ceballos explained how his relationship with De la Fuente could help him thrive.

"I have had great coaches, but with Luis [de la Fuente] we have a different relationship. We have linked up very well from the first tournament (Under-19 European Championship in 2015)", the former Arsenal midfielder said in Tuesday's press conference.

"From then on we have forged a great relationship. He has given me confidence and I have been lucky to give it back to him on the field."

De la Fuente's men get their campaign underway versus Egypt on Thursday before subsequent fixtures against Argentina and Australia and Ceballos, who played 49 times across his two-year loan spell at Arsenal, is aware of the different challenges that the Games provide.

"It is a completely different competition than what we football players are used to. It is a unique opportunity", he said.

"It is really difficult to qualify for it because it has a lot of requirements that are really tough to meet. But this team has done a lot of things to deserve it, and now it is the time to enjoy it."

Barcelona youngster Pedri did not misplace a pass in normal time during the Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy and created 11 chances at the tournament, one more than fellow squad member Olmo (10) and one fewer than first-placed Jordi Alba (12).

 

Both will be team-mates of Ceballos and the midfielder praised all of his colleagues as they prepare to attempt to recreate the 1992 heroics which sealed home Olympic success in Barcelona.

"We have a really great team. On paper, I think we can be among the favourites, but in reality there are a lot of fantastic national teams. On the field it is going to be different", he said

"Playing in this Olympic Games has been a special dream and I have been reading about what happened in that [the 1992] tournament. Especially in the final, that there was extra time and that Spain won against Poland with a goal from Kiko Narvaez.

"Hopefully we can repeat what they did in their day."

Like Ceballos, De la Fuente spoke with pride about leading his nation at the Games, while he also discussed the possibility of following in the footsteps of those from Barcelona 1992.

"It is a pride being here. It is a different feeling from other tournaments because the Olympic Games are unique. It is a totally special experience, and we are wishing to start enjoying it as a competition and living the Olympic environment.", the head coach said.

"We are feeling the same they felt, a great desire to start competing, a great conviction that we have a great team to compete for everything. And feeling capable of fighting for the maximum. I am sure we are feeling what they felt.

"We are going to try to be up to the standards expected of us, and I am sure that we are going to perform to that level and fulfil the expectations we are creating."

The long-standing Olympic motto of 'faster, higher, stronger' has been updated at the Tokyo Games, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The founder of the modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, backed the original motto in 1894 and 127 years later it has been refreshed.

Now it reads 'faster, higher, stronger - together', with International Olympic Committee members said to have unanimously agreed to the update.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: "We want to put a strong focus on solidarity. That’s what the word 'together' means – solidarity.”

Bach explained: "Solidarity fuels our mission to make the world a better place through sport. We can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger by standing together – in solidarity.”

IOC spokesman Mark Adams added: "The idea is that you are unable to go faster, to go higher, to be stronger without a team around you.

"It's not just about individual excellence. It's about the team around you, whether it is a medical team, a coach, your family, your entourage.

"The idea to update the motto is to really understand that if you want to go faster, go by yourself. If you want to go far, go together.

"The IOC is keen to stress the value of solidarity - it is key. If you really want to do something, you have to work with other people to achieve that."

Olympics great Marc Spitz believes Michael Phelps' record of 23 gold medals will be broken by a future swimming sensation.

For the first time since 2000, the Games will happen without Phelps as a factor in the pool, and it will be the likes of Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel who draw much of the global focus.

Phelps landed six golds at the Athens 2004 Games, then a record eight in Beijing four years later, surpassing Spitz's all-time best haul of seven in a single Olympics, which dated back to Munich in 1972.

Another four gold medals followed at London 2012, before Phelps signed off from the Olympics with five triumphs in 2016 at Rio.

"Records are made to be broken, a point in case being Michael breaking my record that took over 30 years to do. Stories will still continue to be written about athletes that will challenge those that came before them," Spitz said.

Spitz described Phelps' contribution as "overwhelming".

"I don't want to diminish the value of any one of Michael's medals, but the young swimmers are looking at that as a benchmark," Spitz said, speaking courtesy of Laureus.

"They shouldn't consider themselves a failure because they can't quite stay on a career for as long as he did. But someday, someone will break that record unless they change the sport of swimming where some of those events aren't competed in and they make the programme so it has less events.

"Michael took what I had done and concentrated on how he could make and create his own journey. That became the gold standard then.

"The reason people think maybe my seven gold medals were so great were that somebody actually challenged it and then broke that record. Michael’s record will go down in the same way and somebody else will be inspired by what he’s done."

 

According to Spitz, Tokyo 2020 is unlikely to see such feats achieved, but he highlighted freestyle and butterfly maestro Dressel as a swimmer capable of great things at the Aquatics Centre.

Dressel won two relay gold medals five years ago in Rio but topped the podium six times at the 2019 World Championships, including four individual wins.

Spitz also earmarked Ledecky, already a five-time Olympic champion, as another American swimmer who could enjoy a golden Games.

"From a swimming point of view, there's some outstanding names," Spitz told Stats Perform.

"Katie Ledecky comes to mind in women's swimming. She's going to go down as one of the greatest swimmers of all time. The margins of her victories are enormous, it's incredible, it's epic in some of these performances.

"She was there during the Michael Phelps era, and there's also Caeleb Dressel who is ... I don't want to say a replacement for Michael Phelps. He's his own man and rightfully so he should be.

"He's dominated the distances and the strokes he's participated in over the last number of years. There's other people from around the world that will give those two athletes certainly a run for their money.

"The point is that I think we won’t be void in the sport of swimming with names and stories to tell."

Olympics chief Thomas Bach revealed he masked his concerns about Tokyo 2020 going ahead because of fears the Games might "fall to pieces".

Bach is president of the International Olympic Committee, which he said "had to show a way out of this crisis" in order for the global event to go ahead amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking on Tuesday in Tokyo, Bach said the IOC had experienced daily concerns about the Olympics being able to proceed but had to present a positive message to stakeholders including sporting federations, sponsors, the Japanese government and broadcasters.

Had the IOC been open about worries for the Games, which were delayed by a year due to the global health crisis, Bach said it could have triggered a chain of events that would have seen the Olympics collapse.

Instead, the Games get under way this week, with the opening ceremony due to take place on Friday.

Bach said: "Over the past 15 months, we had to take daily decisions on very uncertain grounds. We had doubts every day. We deliberated and we discussed. There were sleepless nights. Like everyone else in the world, we did not know, I did not know, what the future would hold."

Bach appeared to scoff at any suggestion of the IOC deciding to "blindly force ahead at any price" and spoke of the "extreme stress test of the coronavirus crisis".

"Imagine for a moment what it would have meant if the leader of the Olympic movement, the IOC, would have added to the already many doubts surrounding the Olympic Games, if we would have poured fuel onto this fire," Bach said.

"How could we have convinced the athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympic Games by adding to their uncertainty?

"How could we have convinced all the other stakeholders to remain committed to the Olympic Games if we would have even deepened their already serious doubts.

"Our doubts could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Olympic Games could have fallen to pieces. This is why, we had to keep these doubts to ourselves. This today I can admit and say it, it also weighed on us, it weighed on me.

"But in order to arrive at this day today, we had to give confidence. We had to show a way out of this crisis. We had to provide stability. We had to build trust. We had to give hope."

The IOC announced updated COVID-19 case figures for the Games on Tuesday, with 40 confirmed cases involving residents of Japan and 31 affecting those from overseas.

Having seen crowds return to a range of tour events, former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash understands the disappointment of tennis moving back to behind closed doors at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Each of the three grand slam events to have taken place this year has been held with fans in attendance, with Centre Court seeing capacity crowds for each of the singles finals at Wimbledon. The US Open, which begins on August 30, will allow 100 per cent fan capacity at Flushing Meadows for the final major of 2021.

However, Cash does not believe the lack of spectators at the Games will have too much of an impact on the players who have elected to travel to Japan.

"Well it's unfortunate that the Olympics won't have any fans. I think that's a real disappointment," Cash told Stats Perform.

"But 95 per cent of our life is played on an empty practice court and stadiums.

"Certainly, when you're coming through, nobody's watching you. It's only when you get to Wimbledon or something that you play with crowds, and they can make a difference. We've also been playing most of the year without them.

"To go back [to no fans] it's unfortunate, but it's not something unusual for the players. The crowd certainly does make a difference. It makes a difference with attention and with the crowd roaring and whistling or whatever they want to do."

World number two Naomi Osaka, who will return to action having withdrawn from the French Open to protect her well-being and subsequently skipped Wimbledon, is one athlete who could have benefited from the home support in Japan.

Though he is unsure of how boisterous the home crowd would have been in Tokyo, Cash still feels for the 23-year-old four-time Grand Slam winner.

 

"With no crowds there that's disappointing for her," he added. 

"But you know, it's sort of something we've become used to on the tour - playing with empty crowds and the nerves still kick in, it is all about winning, and players tend to learn to block the crowds out quite well.

"They stay in their own world when they're on the tennis court. The urgency and the intensity of a match is not really going to change that much because the players really want this for themselves."

A female United States gymnast has tested positive for coronavirus while training in Tokyo ahead of the Olympics, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) has confirmed.

The unnamed athlete was an alternate – a team member included as a reserve – and will now isolate along with another team member who has been identified as a close contact.

"The health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority," a USOC statement read.

"We can confirm that an alternate on the women's artistic gymnastics team tested positive for COVID-19.

"Out of respect for the individual's privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time."

The positive test comes just four days before the delayed Games begins, with fellow US female gymnast Simone Biles set to be one of the stars of the competition.

The 24-year-old won four gold medals and a bronze at Rio 2016 and will be looking to add to that haul when the women's gymnastics competition starts on July 25.

It was also confirmed on Monday that Czech Republic beach volleyball player Ondrej Perusic tested positive for COVID-19.

Perusic and playing partner David Schweiner are due to begin their Tokyo 2020 campaign against Latvia on July 26, but the Czech Olympic Committee will seek to postpone the game until Perusic is cleared to play.

The number of Games-linked individuals to have tested positive for coronavirus since testing began on July 1 stood at 60 on Monday.

South Africa's men's football pair Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi were the first two athletes inside the Olympic Village to test positive over the weekend.

Around 11,000 athletes from 205 national Olympic committees are expected to stay at the village over the next three weeks.

The 2020 Games, delayed by a year due to the global health pandemic, will be held mostly without spectators due to a state of emergency being declared in Tokyo.

Infection rates in the Japanese capital have topped 1,000 for five days running, with a seven-day average of 1,068 as of Sunday.

Wimbledon champion Ash Barty has "a great chance" of securing Olympic glory for Australia in Tokyo.

That is the view of former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash, though he warned there is plenty of scope for upsets in both the men's and women's singles.

Monica Puig claimed a surprise victory at Rio 2016 - then ranked 34th, she stunned Angelique Kerber in the final after beating Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza en route to give Puerto Rico their first-ever gold medal.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are two greats on the men's side who have not tasted Olympic glory, something the Serbian will look to put right this year as he pursues a Golden Slam.

Cash, though, would not be surprised to see the Olympics throw up another surprise result, even though he hopes to see compatriot Barty come out on top in the women's tournament.

He told Stats Perform: "The women's draw is very, very even. If you don't play well in one of those matches, you're out. 

"There's no such thing as an easy first round really in a tournament such as the Olympics, particularly the men’s side where it's best of three sets. So if you slip up, you're gone. 

"There's no chance of coming back from two sets to one down, because it's over. So that's trickier for somebody like Djokovic who can typically run people into the ground.

"Ash has got a great chance of winning the Olympics, but I think probably there's 30 girls who think they can do that as well and they're probably right. 

"We've seen some unusual results in the Olympics and shorter form tournaments like that, also on the men's side.

"It's very hard to say, but obviously, [Barty] is in great form and full of confidence - that goes a long way to winning a gold medal."

 

There have been a host of high-profile withdrawals from the tennis in Tokyo.

Rafael Nadal, Federer, Dominic Thiem, Matteo Berrettini, Serena Williams, Sofia Kenin, Simona Halep and Coco Gauff among a large list of top players who will be missing.

Some absences were unavoidable due to injuries or positive coronavirus cases but some players have opted to rest amid a hectic calendar, avoiding Japan's strict COVID-19 rules in the process.

Cash has mixed views on the subject but does feel playing at the Olympics should be seen as a rare and valuable opportunity.

"I think I think they would [look back fondly at winning a medal]," said Cash.

"It’s certainly one of the regrets in my career that I didn't play the Olympics [in 1988]. I had a niggling injury and decided to rest. 

"Looking back, I thought I could have won a medal, maybe even a gold medal. I would have probably given it a really good shot. 

"In my era it wasn't the pinnacle. I think Novak Djokovic has talked about that now, he said, ‘The main thing for me is winning slams, they're the pinnacle of our game’. 

"But to win a gold medal, it's pretty cool. You'll find that the players who do win a gold medal, if you tell the grandkids, 'I won a Wimbledon trophy' or 'I won a gold medal', they’ll go, 'Oh, where’s the gold medal?'

"Having said that, there's a lot of players who aren't playing the Olympics this year. Certainly for a few years, it was a novelty - I'm not sure if it's wearing off or not. 

"But to perform for your country, I think is an honour and we haven't had the opportunity to do that much in the last couple of years. 

"With the Davis Cup, the men's competition is really just a fading, unfortunately, dying competition, which not many people really care about any more.

"That's very, very sad, so the Olympics is often the best opportunity to represent your country."

 

Cash delved deeper into the dilemma players are likely to have faced.

"I wouldn't put any criticism on anybody for the personal choice after these last 18 months," he said. "It's their choice, everybody's got a different journey in this and it's part of their careers. 

"With COVID and all that sort of stuff that's going on - the bubbles - some of the stresses are unknown like being away from family and friends for months on end and not actually have any break. 

"Everybody's got their own different stories, some of them are injured, some were coming back from injury, some think 'I'm not going to make a trip to Japan' - with all the restrictions it's not going be fun. 

"It's not going to be a fun Games where you can go there and watch the other athletes. In Los Angeles [the 1984 Games] the highlight was actually to go and watch the track events, which I did.

"That's not going to happen, you're in a hotel, you're in the village or, you're gonna go straight to the tennis and back only to a certain area of the village, I think it's going to be locked down for tennis players only. 

"You may not be able to mingle with the other athletes. So I think a lot of the fun has been taken out of this. 

"But again, it's representing your country and trying to get trying to get a gold medal. So some players will go to great lengths to do that."

Naomi Osaka is less likely to claim Olympics glory on home soil in Tokyo because her lack of match practice will be a disadvantage, according to Pat Cash.

Japan's Osaka has not played since withdrawing from the French Open after one match at the end of May, having revealed she would skip press conferences as "people have no regard for athletes' mental health".

Prior to taking a break from the sport, four-time grand slam champion Osaka revealed she had suffered "long bouts of depression" since winning the US Open in 2018.

The 23-year-old said this month she wants "some level of privacy and empathy" from the media when she returns to action and but also discussed her excitement at playing in a "dream" Olympics.

Former Wimbledon champion Cash insists Osaka has the game to triumph but feels it is a tougher task now given her main opponents are coming off two grand slams in quick succession.

"Yeah, she said [she was taking] time out – it's hard to know if she's going to be match hardened," Cash said to Stats Perform.

"I think that's the thing about playing Wimbledon, the grass court season. Are you match toughened? 

"That goes a huge, huge way [to achieving success, and not having that] is putting yourself under pressure and especially under those circumstances if it's for a gold medal."

 

Cash feels the quality and depth of opposition in the women's draw is another obstacle in Osaka's bid for gold.

Wimbledon winner Ash Barty, beaten finalist Karolina Pliskova, former French Open champion Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka are scheduled to be among the highest-ranked competitors for Osaka at the Olympics.

Cash added: "There are a lot of good players too. Going back onto the hard court, I think that favours certain players who hit the ball hard like Sabalenka for instance.

"But there's 30 girls who really do think they can win a gold medal there and I think that's true. 

"So it's very hard to predict who will win, obviously Japan want Osaka to win, but with her being out, I think it's less likely than in a normal circumstance where she's playing matches. 

"But she's such a talent that she really could come out there and blast players away, so I wouldn't put it past her."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.