World No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s bid for a Golden Slam got off to a flying start in Japan as he swept aside 139th-ranked Hugo Dellien of Bolivia 6-2, 6-2 in the opening round of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics tennis tournament.
The top-ranked Serb is attempting to become the first man to win all four major tennis tournaments and an Olympic singles gold medal in the same year. Steffi Graf was the only tennis player to accomplish the Golden Slam in 1988.
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Djokovic’s next opponent will be 48th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. Struff eliminated Thiago Monteiro of Brazil 6-3, 6-4.
Earlier, 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.
The heat is also taking its toll on the tennis court, with Daniil Medvedev describing “some of the worst” conditions he’s ever played in before reaching the second round in the men’s singles.
Second seed Medvedev saved a set point in the second set before completing a 6-4, 7-6 win over world NO. 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, who booked a last-32 clash with India’s Sumit Nagal, said: “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. It’s unbelievably hot. You need to get through it and be the winner.”
In the women’s competition, 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. “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.”
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.