Osaka and Djokovic cruise in tennis
By Matthew Futterman
The two biggest names in the Olympic tennis tournament enjoyed a hassle-free day of work at Ariake Tennis Park on Monday.
Naomi Osaka of Japan, the biggest star for the host country in these Games, and Novak Djokovic of Serbia, the top-ranked men’s player, both won in straight sets as the harsh heat eased.
For Djokovic, who beat Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, the win moved him one step closer to the fourth jewel in the Golden Slam he is shooting for — winning all four Grand Slam events and the Olympic gold medal in the same year. Steffi Graf is the only previous player to pull off the feat, in 1988.
Djokovic was not perfect but was plenty efficient, needing just an hour and a quarter to dispatch the big-hitting German, 6-4, 6-3, and advance into the round of 16. He is 11 wins away from another level of tennis immortality. He lost his serve just once Monday, did not double fault and served three aces.
Osaka needed just 65 minutes to get past Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, 6-3, 6-2. Osaka lost just eight points on her serve and won 61 total points to just 36 for Golubic.
Djokovic’s next match should be a fair test — he faces Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the young Spaniard who has been playing well.
As much as any athlete here, Djokovic appears to be feeding off the energy of the Olympics. After his match he spoke of how happy he is here, how much he is enjoying the break from the solitary routine of the tennis tour and the ability to eat and hobnob and share the gym with so many athletes from so many different sports.
“It’s a unique opportunity,” he said. “You chat about sports and life with all these people. It’s something we don’t really get the chance to do.”
Osaka will be a heavy favorite against Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who is ranked 42nd in the world. And her path toward gold got even easier in Round 2 as two more top competitors were eliminated: third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Iga Swiatek of Poland, the No. 6 seed.
The most emotional moment of the day came after Paula Badosa of Spain upset Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion. Swiatek, who takes losses hard, was crying as she approached the net. Badosa, her good friend and occasional practice partner, embraced her and tried to comfort her.
“I told her I played amazing and I had to to beat her,” Badosa said. “I said she is going to be at the top for a very long time. She does not have to worry about losing this match to me.”
But Badosa could only do so much. Swiatek sunk into her chair and sobbed into a towel for several minutes.
The early exits for Swiatek and Sabalenka — who lost to Donna Vekic of Croatia — came after the top-seeded player in the tournament, Ashleigh Barty of Australia, was bounced in her first match.