Novak Djokovic's hopes of becoming the first man to win a calendar Golden Slam were crushed by a semi-final defeat to Alexander Zverev at the Tokyo Olympics.

From a set and a break up, Djokovic dropped a staggering eight games in a row on his way to a 1-6 6-3 6-1 loss.

The 34-year-old Serbian had been unsure about coming to the Games but was swayed by the pride he takes in representing his country and the tantalising opportunity to add a gold medal to a potential clean sweep of the grand slams.

He has already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, and will head to the US Open in August as a heavy favourite regardless of this setback.

But this was just not Djokovic's day, despite him making a whirlwind start and dominating until the point he broke to lead 3-2 in the second set. From there, Zverev seized control. 

When Djokovic volleyed into the net to make it 3-3, dropping serve for the first time in the match, it looked like just a minor stumble.

Yet suddenly he was struggling for form and did not win another game until he was already 4-0 behind in the deciding set.

Zverev was playing blindingly brilliant tennis and was proving obdurate too, saving four break points in the second game of the third set.

He clinched victory with a blazing backhand winner, and goes on to face Russian Karen Khachanov in the final.

The result means Djokovic, like Roger Federer, seems fated never to win the Olympic singles gold medal. And it leaves Steffi Graf as the only player to ever win a calendar Golden Slam, having done so in 1988 when she added the Seoul Olympics title to her haul of majors.

Russian Olympic Committee's Khachanov fended off Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta with some ease in the first semi-final, with the world number 25 sweeping to a 6-3 6-3 victory in an hour and 19 minutes.

He won 26 of 28 points on first serve to freeze out Carreno Busta, who had only one break point all match and could not take that opportunity.

"It's just a pure happiness, a pleasure to be here to live those moments, these kind of memories will stay forever," Khachanov said.

Khachanov delivered a rock solid display, with his serve and forehand at their best, barely giving his opponent a sniff of an opportunity as the Moscow-born 25-year-old established a firm grip.

"That's the way I prepared, against every opponent you play a little bit differently," Khachanov said. "The final will be another story, another match, another day. I hope it will be the same."

Carreno Busta, who will face Djokovic for the bronze medal, said: "It was not the best match I have played, but Karen was unbelievable today, playing very aggressive and serving really good."

Friday sees the start of the Olympic athletics schedule and the first tennis medals will be won in Tokyo.

The men's 10,000 metres final will be staged on the first day of track and field action at the Olympic Stadium.

There will be an all-Croatia men's doubles gold medal match at the Ariake Tennis Park, plus no doubt more drama to come in the pool.

Stats Perform picks out some of the standout events to look forward to.


CHEPTEGEI FAVOURITE FOR FIRST TRACK GOLD

Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo both have the chance to become the first athlete from Uganda to win an Olympic gold medal in the men's 10,000m final.

Cheptegei, the 2019 world champion, is well fancied in the last event on the track on Friday, while his compatriot Kiplimo could become the youngest man to be crowned champion at the distance at the age of 20 years and 258 days.

Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia and Canadian Mohammed Ahmed also have high hopes of making it onto the podium. 

Other events to look out for are the start of the women's 100m, men's 400m hurdles and men's high jump, along with the women's 800m and women's triple jump.

CROATIA GUARANTEED DOUBLES GOLD

One guarantee on Friday is that Croatia will add a gold and silver medal to their tally at the Tokyo Games.

Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig will face compatriots Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic in the gold medal match in the men's doubles final.

The men's singles semi-finals will also take place, with Novak Djokovic, chasing a Golden Slam this year, up against Germany's Alexander Zverev.

Karen Khachanov of the Russian Olympic Committee will do battle with Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta to find out who will make it through from the other half of the draw.


HIGH HOPES FOR AUSTRALIAN DUO

Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell could make it an Australia one-two in the women's 100m freestyle final.

McKeon set a new Olympic record of 52.13 seconds on Wednesday and will go out in lane four next to her dangerous compatriot Campbell.

That is one of four finals on Friday, with Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa expected to take some stopping in the 200m breaststroke final after clocking an Olympic record time of 2:19.16 this week.

Medals will also be up for grabs in the men's 200m backstroke final and the men's 200m individual medley.

Sunisa Lee stepped up in the absence of Simone Biles to claim gold and maintain Team USA’s dominance in the women's gymnastics all-around event.

The 18-year-old became the sixth American woman to take the title – and fifth in a row – after beating Brazil's Rebeca Andrade and Angelina Melnikova to gold.

Despite withdrawing from the final to focus on her mental health, Biles was cheering on from the stands as her team-mate aimed to capitalise.

Lee was looking to continue her nation's impressive record in this event, which has seen triumph concurrently at both the Olympic Games and World Championships since 2010.

The teenager admitted she came close to quitting gymnastics following a difficult two years – both in and out of the gym.

Nevertheless, she duly delivered the goods by totalling 57.433 to take gold and edge out Andrade, who became the first Brazilian woman to claim an Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics.

"It feels crazy, it is so surreal. It's a dream come true," Lee said. "I don't even know what to say. It hasn't even sunk in. The past two years with COVID have been crazy. There was one point I wanted to quit. 

"To be here and to be an Olympic gold medallist is just crazy."

 

PATIENT FOX COMES GOOD

Australia's Jess Fox became the first women's canoe slalom (C1) Olympic gold medallist.

A multiple World champion, Olympic gold has eluded Fox over the years. She was a silver medallist at London in 2012, while she took home a bronze from Rio four years later.

However, her persistence finally paid off after posting a time of 105.04 seconds in the final, while Great Britain's Mallory Franklin and Andrea Herzog of Germany completed the podium.

"I can't believe it," said Fox, who also won bronze in the women's kayak earlier this week.

"I was dreaming of [a gold medal] and I really believed it was within me, but you never know what is going to happen at the Olympics.

"It is about holding your nerve and I probably didn't do that very well in the kayak a couple of days before, so it was hard to get to this point. But it has been incredible to do what I did today."

Novak Djokovic is growing in confidence after his bid to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games stayed on track on his "best day" of Tokyo 2020.

The Serbian cruised into the semi-finals of the singles tournament with an emphatic 6-2 6-0 win over home favourite Kei Nishikori of Japan, then teamed up with Nina Stojanovic to beat German pair Laura Siegemund and Kevin Krawietz in the mixed doubles quarter-finals.

World number one Djokovic, 34, is attempting to become the first man to win all four tennis singles grand slam titles and an Olympic gold in the same year.

He has already triumphed at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, leaving just Tokyo and the US Open to conquer.

Asked after his doubles win if this was the best year of his career, Djokovic replied: "I don't know. Today was the best day of this tournament because I've played my best tennis so far."

Those comments echoed his assessment of the Nishikori match, after which he said: "I'm very happy – my best performance in the tournament."

Djokovic said he "had an answer for everything [Nishikori] had" and now he will face Alexander Zverev.

Asked how confident he felt heading into the last four, the 20-time grand slam champion replied: "Very."

 

Djokovic was boosted by the later start times for his matches after the International Tennis Federation bowed to pressure from players complaining of the extreme heat and humidity at Ariake Tennis Park.

"It's great that we're playing in the afternoon hours, so we don't experience too much heat," Djokovic said.

"Although it's still very, very humid. It's a bit easier, more pleasant to play in the afternoon. It was fantastic. 

"Playing after 5[pm] is completely different.  Obviously, there is a little bit of a breeze, but still very, very humid, you sweat a lot, but you don't have the heat, you don't have the sun that, in combination with the humidity, is just brutal."

Novak Djokovic cruised through to the men's singles semi-finals after a commanding straight-sets victory over Kei Nishikori at the Ariake Tennis Park.

The world number one is yet to drop a set at the Tokyo Games after running out a 6-2 6-0 winner against home favourite Nishikori, who claimed bronze in Rio five years ago.

Having already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year, Djokovic is aiming to become the first male player of the Open era to complete the Golden Grand Slam.

Should he claim gold in Tokyo and go on to triumph at the US Open, he would become only the second player overall to achieve the feat, after Steffi Graf in 1988.

However, the Serbian has never reached an Olympic final – his best result coming in for the form of a bronze medal in Beijing.

"Matches are not getting easier, but my level of tennis is getting better and better," Djokovic told reporters after setting up a last-four tie with Alexander Zverev.

"I've done that many, many times in my career. I know that I'm the kind of player that the further the tournament goes, the better I'm feeling on the court.

"That's the case here, [it was] my best performance of the tournament tonight against a very good opponent."

 

DANIIL DUMPED OUT

Standing in the way of Djokovic and a shot at the gold medal is fourth seed Zverev.

The big-serving German saw off Jeremy Chardy 6-4 6-1 and like Djokovic is yet to drop a set at the tournament.

World number five Zverev, who hit 11 aces during the contest, broke early on the way to edging a closely fought opening set. The US Open finalist then went into overdrive with three breaks on the way to sealing the deal.

There was, however, no joy for second seed Daniil Medvedev, as he went down 2-6 6-7 (5-7) against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, who is looking to replicated Rafael Nadal's effort from 2008.

"Today, he could win a Masters easily, and yet he's never been in any final of those," the Russian said of his opponent.

"With the level he showed here today, he can get to the final of a Grand Slam easily. I couldn't play better than what I did today. It was not easy to play and I'm really disappointed with myself and for my country to lose in the quarters."

 

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Despite Medvedev's exit, Russia – or, at least, the Russian Olympic Committee – will be represented in the semi-finals by Karen Khachanov.

A quarter-finalist at Wimbledon earlier this month, the 12th seed built on his momentum by overcoming Ugo Humbert in three sets.

Khachanov took the opener on a tie-break but was pegged back by the Frenchman in the second as the contest went to a decider.

But he established early control by breaking to love in game four before holding out to prevail 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-3.

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."

Daniil Medvedev did not take kindly to a question over the controversy surrounding Russian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics after he battled through sweltering conditions to reach the quarter-finals.

Medvedev beat Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-2 3-6 6-2 on Wednesday in a match that was paused for 10 minutes due to on-court temperatures reaching 31 degrees Celsius, with humidity then adding to that.

The world number two had to receive medical attention on two occasions before he prevailed to tee up a last-eight tie with Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.

Top seed Novak Djokovic continued his march towards the medal matches with a routine win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, though in the doubles, Andy Murray's hopes of winning a historic fourth Olympic prize were shattered.

 

MEDVDEV'S TEMPER FRAYS IN THE HEAT

It had already been a stressful day for Medvedev. The 25-year-old replied "I can finish the match but I can die. If I die, are you going to be responsible?" when asked by chair umpire Carlos Ramos whether he could carry on playing against Fognini following two medical timeouts. 

Medvedev's temper then boiled over in the media mixed zone when he was questioned over the contentious nature of Russian athletes competing at the Games.

The Russian flag is not represented in Tokyo due to sanctions against the country for state-sponsored doping offences. Russia is suspended from competing in global sporting events for two years – a ban that was reduced from an initial four-year punishment. Instead, athletes are competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

Medvedev was asked if he feels the Russian athletes are "carrying a stigma of cheaters".

Seemingly misunderstanding the question, Medvedev hardly held back in his reaction, saying: "That's the first time in my life I’m not gonna answer a question, man. And you should be embarrassed of yourself."

Before leaving the room, Medvedev subsequently told the press officer: "I think you should [remove] him from either the Olympic Games, either the tennis tournament. I don't wanna see him again in my interviews. Thanks."

MURRAY'S PARIS PARTICIPATION IN DOUBT

There was to be no fairytale title tilt for former world number one Murray. He won gold in the singles in London and Rio, and also managed a silver medal at the 2012 Games in the mixed doubles, but he and Joe Sailsbury suffered a defeat to Croatian pair Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig in the quarter-finals.

The British pair won the first set but failed to make their advantage count, with Croatia's duo coming back to win 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 10-7.

Murray will be 37 by the time the Paris Games come around, and as he continues to carefully manage his return from hip surgery, the Scot could well have made his Olympic farewell.

"I don't know. I don't know if I'll get the opportunity to play [in the Olympics] again," he conceded.

"I love every minute of playing the Olympics. I wish that today would have gone differently. I had another chance with Joe to win a medal. We were so close and that is just disappointing. There was some stuff I wish I could have done at the end of the match to try and help out more. But yeah, very disappointing."

MIXED BAG FOR TSITSIPAS

While Medvedev, Djokovic and Alexander Zverev all progressed into the last eight in the singles, there was no place for Stefanos Tsitsipas, whose hopes were ended by Ugo Humbert.

The Greek world number four suffered a seemingly innocuous leg injury in the second set tie-break and failed to recover in the decider as Frenchman Humbert claimed the biggest win of his career.

However, Tsitsipas was swiftly back on court to play in the mixed doubles alongside partner Maria Sakkari, and the duo claimed a comfortable 6-3 6-4 victory over Canada's Gabriela Dabrowski and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Asked after that win to discuss what went wrong in his earlier defeat, Tsitsipas replied: "I figured out a few things later during the match, like really, really late. 

"I think if I've had the same mindset or the same attitude, same vision that I had towards the very end of the match, I think things would have gone much, much smoother and better for me. It's something that I learned."

He also confirmed his injury was "nothing serious."

DJOKOVIC ON A ROLL

As expected, Djokovic is one win away from a shot at a medal in the singles, and he then followed up his victory over Davidovich Fokina by combining with Nina Stojanovic in the mixed doubles.

The Serbian pair beat Marcelo Melo and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-3 6-4 in just 70 minutes to book their place in the next round.

Djokovic will have the host nation against him in his next match, however, as he takes on Kei Nishikori, who is Japan's only hope of a singles medal after Naomi Osaka's exit.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has confirmed matches at the Tokyo Olympics will now start later in the day after concerns over player health and welfare.

World numbers one and two Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev have been among the players to complain about games starting too early in the day, citing the heat and humidity at Ariake Tennis Park as a major issue.

Indeed, on Wednesday, 25-year-old Medvedev struggled with the conditions as he battled to a 6-2 3-6 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini.

Despite being allowed 10 minutes off court at one stage, Medvedev was in visible discomfort during the last-16 tie, and had two medical timeouts before being asked by chair umpire Carlos Ramos whether he could continue.

"I can finish the match but I can die," the Russian replied to Ramos, per ESPN. "If I die, are you going to be responsible?"

The 72 per cent humidity meant 31 degrees Celsius felt like 37 degrees Celsius on the heat index. Medvedev was not the only player to suffer on Wednesday, with Paula Badosa having to be taken from the court in a wheelchair as she retired against Marketa Vondrousova due to heatstroke.

Earlier in the week, Medvedev had questioned the approach of starting matches in the late morning, while top seed Djokovic suggested scheduling the first games for 15:00 local time.

The ITF has now agreed, with start times pushed back to 15:00, meaning the majority of matches in the closing stages of the Olympic tennis will be played during the slightly cooler evening hours.

"In the interests of player health and welfare and following extensive consultation, the ITF has announced a change of schedule due to the increasing heat and humidity currently being experienced in Tokyo," an ITF statement read.

"The decision to start matches at 3pm JST from Thursday is possible due to the outcomes of today’s matches across the five competitons being staged and the size of the player field.

"[The decision] is designed to further safeguard player health."

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.

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."

Daniil Medvedev says it is a "joke" that players do not have longer at changeovers but will not "cry about the heat" after coming through his Tokyo 2020 opener, while Novak Djokovic started at a canter as he looks to add the next step of a Golden Slam.

Representing the Russian Olympic Committee, Medvedev appeared fatigued at times in his 6-4 7-6 (10-8) triumph over Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik at the Ariake Tennis Park.

The conditions in the Japanese capital were sweltering on Saturday but Novak Djokovic was able to keep his cool in coasting to a 6-2 6-2 win against Hugo Dellien.

MEDVEDEV CALLS FOR MORE TIME

Medvedev, who saved three of four break points and now has a 3-0 head-to-head record over Bublik, was pretty pointed about what he feels should be done about the heat.

"Like they do in Mexico, the matches maybe should start at six (pm) because the heat actually gets much, much lighter. We all try to practise at six," said Olympics debutant Medvedev, who next plays Sumit Nagal.

"The fact that we have only one minute between changeovers is a joke. If you ask, let's say 200 tennis players that are here, I think 195 will tell you that one minute is a joke. It should be 1:30.

"But you have to play, that's the Olympics, you go for the medal. You're not here to cry about the heat. It was really tough for both of us. We talked about this after the match on the court. It was unbelievably hot. But you need to get through it."

Fellow Russian athlete Aslan Karatsev (11) defeated Tommy Paul 6-3 6-2 to set up a meeting with Jeremy Chardy, while Lorenzo Sonego (13), Ugo Humbert (14), Fabio Fognini (15) and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (16) all progressed.

 

DJOKOVIC UP AND RUNNING

Since winning bronze in Beijing 13 years ago, Djokovic has not had the best of luck at the Olympics – losing in 2012 and 2016 to Juan Martin del Potro on both occasions.

But with a host of big hitters from the ATP absent – including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – Djokovic is the overwhelming favourite in Tokyo.

Only Steffi Graf in 1988 from either the WTA or ATP Tour has ever completed a sweep of all four slams and an Olympic gold in a calendar year, and Djokovic needs Olympic gold and victory at the US Open to match the feat.

He needed just 61 minutes here to beat Dellien of Bolivia.

MURRAY SCORES UPSET DOUBLES WIN

Andy Murray is the two-time defending men's singles champion in Tokyo, but struggles with injuries mean it would take a herculean effort to make it three in a row.

But he is also representing Great Britain in the doubles and together with Joe Salisbury upset French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-3 6-2 in their first time competing with one another.

Murray is not looking too far ahead, though, saying: "You take one match at a time, you know, so a lot of the players here are really motivated to play for their country. 

"This is such a rare opportunity for all of us and I think we all want to do well. So, yeah, just take it one match at a time."

The men's road cycling race is a standout event as dreams will turn into a reality a year later than athletes might have hoped for at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.

After Naomi Osaka lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony on Friday, Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar will be striving to light up the opening day of competition.

Pogacar goes for gold less than a week after the Slovenian sensation retained his Tour title in Paris and it will be an incredible achievement if he is on top of the podium again.

There will also be archery, judo, shooting, taekwondo and weightlifting titles up for grabs on the first day of the Games 12 months after they were due to be contested.

Stats Perform pick out what to look out for on Saturday.

 

POGACAR FACES ANOTHER HUGE STAMINA TEST

Pogacar dominated the Tour de France and is the favourite to follow that up with Olympic gold in what promises to be a thrilling road race.

His compatriot Primoz Roglic is another strong contender for gold, while Canada's Michael Woods and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde will start the race with high hopes of securing a medal.

Belgian duo Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert are also expected to be in the mix.

The 234-kilometre course starts at Musashinonomori Park and finishes at the Fuji International Speedway and features five big ascents, including one on Mount Fuji.

 

HIGH HOPES FOR JAPANESE JUDOKAS

There will be no spectators to provide support, but that is not expected to stop Japanese judokas from setting the standard once again.

The host nation has 39 gold, 19 silver and 26 bronze medals in judo, making it the only sport the country tops the all-time Olympic medal table in.

Naoki Ogata, technical operations manager with the International Judo Federation, is setting the bar high with his expectations on home soil.

"No doubt, we want a gold medal in all weight categories," said Ogata.

 

DJOKOVIC IN HUNT FOR GOLDEN SLAM

Novak Djokovic has already won three of the four majors this year and an Olympic title would leave him heading to the US Open knowing victory would complete the Golden Slam.

The world number one from Serbia plays Hugo Dellien of Bolivia when the men's singles starts on Saturday, while Poland's Iga Swiatek is among the standout players in action in the women's singles - which she begins against Mona Barthel.

There is also women's and men's doubles action on Saturday. 

The pick of the other events to be getting under way will be artistic gymnastics, badminton, swimming, boxing, hockey and rowing.

Novak Djokovic has been burned by high expectations at the Olympics before, so it was little surprise that he should express only guarded optimism on the eve of the Tokyo Games.

The Serbian, who has won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon already in 2021, is chasing the gold medal that would leave him one step away from the first tennis calendar 'Golden Slam' by a man.

Should he triumph in Japan over the next fortnight, Djokovic will head to the US Open in late August needing to win in New York to complete the full set.

Steffi Graf, who in 1988 won all the slams and gold at the Seoul Olympics, is the only player in tennis history to have completed such a sensational season.

Djokovic said such a feat was becoming a "more and more realistic" target, as he spoke in a Serbia team news conference, but the last time he stepped off the singles court at an Olympic Games, he was in tears, having lost in the first round at Rio to Juan Martin del Potro.

There is no danger of Djokovic running into his Olympic nemesis in Tokyo, with Del Potro, who also beat Djokovic in a bronze-medal match at the London 2012 Olympics, not a part of Argentina's squad as he battles back from four knee operations.

Looking at his own prospects for Tokyo and the rest of the year, Djokovic said: "It is still a long way to go ... I put myself in a very good position. But I will take things very slowly and cautiously.

"It's an approach I need to have because in the past I wasn't probably fully experienced in that approach. And I started to feel there were a lot of distractions around that influenced my performance.

"I know there are a lot of things on the line, a lot of history on the line. I'm privileged to be in this position. I worked very hard to be here, with my team, of course. But let's talk about history if everything goes great."

After his singles loss in Rio, Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic lost in the second round of doubles to Brazilians Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo.

A bronze from Beijing 2008 is all Djokovic has to show for his Olympics career to date, but he is a hot favourite for the title in Tokyo, where he will start against Bolivia's world number 139 Hugo Dellien.

The 34-year-old Djokovic said he "would be delighted to ask" Graf how she achieved her 1988 clean sweep.

"When I was thinking about her ultimate achievement ... I did not think it... I don't want to say 'achievable', but [I thought] there was a slim chance that someone could make it again, both male and female," Djokovic said.

"But right now it seems more and more realistic. Of course, it is one of my goals and dreams."

Djokovic has neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal as rivals in Tokyo, with Federer missing after reporting a knee injury setback and Nadal electing to give the event a miss.

The 'Big Three' each have 20 grand slam titles now, following Djokovic's hot streak, and the Serbian admits it is unusual for both superstars to be absent.

"I have not experienced too many big tournaments in the past 15 years without Roger and Rafa playing. So it's a little bit strange," Djokovic said. "I'm used to seeing at least one of them. But still, some of the best players in the world are here.

"The guys who are in the top six, seven in the world, they are the biggest competitors or candidates for winning a medal. But potentially I am meeting with them in the later rounds."

After winning Wimbledon for a sixth time, Djokovic surprised many by claiming he could skip the Olympics, but he was reeled in by the appeal of representing his country, perhaps for the final time in the Games.

"Without the key element of any sports events – the crowds, the fans, that energy – it's different, but it is still the Olympic Games," he said.

"I was in a dilemma for a little bit, but I decided to come, and I'm glad because there are many more things that are beautiful about the Olympic Games. So I will try to focus on those things."

Ash Barty and home favourite Naomi Osaka start their respective quests for Olympic gold against Sara Sorribes Tormo and Zheng Saisai, while Novak Djokovic opens against Hugo Dellien.

In a stacked women's draw, world number one and Wimbledon champion Barty has a tough opening assignment and could face French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 13th seed, as early as round three.

Spectators may not be in attendance at Tokyo venues for the Olympics but Japanese fans will be rooting for Osaka, who returns to action after a two-month hiatus with the four-time grand slam winner having spoken openly about mental health and anxiety issues.

Viktorija Golubic or Maria Camila Osorio Serrano would await Osaka if she can get through round one, but a dream final with Barty is no shoo-in given 15 of the world's top 20 on the WTA Tour are in action including each of the nine leading the race for the 2021 WTA Finals.

Aryna Sabalenka (3), Elina Svitolina (4), Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova (5), Iga Swiatek (6) and Garbine Muguruza are all featuring in Tokyo.

 

The men's side has been hit by a spate of withdrawals, with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem among those not playing in the Japanese capital.

The main talking point surrounds whether the all-conquering Djokovic can continue his march towards a calendar Golden Slam – a sweep of all four majors and an Olympic gold in the same year.

Any notion of a free ride for the Serbian is wide of the mark, though. His side of the draw could see him come up against Andrey Rublev (5), Alexander Zverev (4) and Hubert Hurkacz (7), while Stefano Tsitsipas (3) – beaten by Djokovic in the French Open final – and Daniil Medvedev (2) are among the potential final opponents.

Andy Murray, gold medal winner in 2012 and 2016, faces Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime in a tricky first-round match.

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."

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