Tokyo Olympics

Medvedev wins Olympic opener as Djokovic begins gold medal bid

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Novak Djokovic in action at the ATP event in Vienna.
Novak Djokovic in action at the ATP event in Vienna.
Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images

Daniil Medvedev overcame "some of the worst" conditions he's ever played in to reach the second round of the Tokyo Olympics tennis tournament Saturday as Novak Djokovic prepared to launch his bid for a gold medal.

Second seed Medvedev saved a set point in the second set before completing a 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) win over world number 40 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan in hot sunshine at Ariake Tennis Park.

The 19,900-seat venue, home to 11 outdoor courts and the showpiece Ariake Coliseum court, was almost empty, with fans barred from all but a handful of Olympic sites in Tokyo because of strict Covid-19 rules.

Medvedev, appearing at his first Games, broke Bublik in the opening game of the match and edged a close-fought second set to book a last-32 clash with India's Sumit Nagal.

"It's some of the worst (conditions)... I'm not going to lie, but you have to play. That's the Olympics, you go for the medal. You're not here to cry about heat, it was really tough for both of us," said Medvedev.

"It's unbelievably hot. You need to get through it and be the winner."

Poland's Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, needed just over an hour to brush aside 172nd-ranked Mona Barthel 6-2, 6-2.

Sixth seed Swiatek, in the same quarter of the draw as Japanese star Naomi Osaka, will play Spain's Paula Badosa or Kristina Mladenovic for a place in the last 16.

"It was very hot as everybody is saying," said Swiatek, whose father Tomasz competed in rowing at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

"Even though I've practised here for a few days already, a match is totally different because the stress comes in and the conditions are different, you feel everything twice as much.

"I'm pretty happy that I'm into the second round. Not only was the humidity and temperature hard, but also the sun."

Reigning Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova advanced when her Kazakh opponent Zarina Diyas retired down 5-2 in the first set. 

Last month's beaten French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova inflicted a crushing 6-0, 6-1 defeat on Italy's Sara Errani, the 2012 runner-up in Paris.

Osaka was originally scheduled to kick off the tournament against China's Zheng Saisai, but her match was pushed back 24 hours after she was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron in Friday's opening ceremony.

"Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honour I will ever have in my life," Osaka wrote on social media.

The four-time Grand Slam champion will return to court following an eight-week break after she abandoned her French Open campaign for mental health reasons and then skipped Wimbledon.

World number one Djokovic is the undisputed favourite for the men's title as he closes in on a calendar Golden Grand Slam.

The Serb will face Bolivia's Hugo Dellien in the opening round of an event missing half the men's top 10 players, including 2008 Olympic champion Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Djokovic, a 2008 bronze medallist, is hoping to emulate Steffi Graf's 1988 feat of winning the Golden Slam after already snapping up the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year.

Andy Murray, the defending two-time singles gold medallist, began his fourth Olympics by combining with Joe Salisbury to knock out French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 6-2 in the men's doubles.

Murray, now ranked a lowly 104th, takes on Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round of the singles. 

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