Olympics: the draw's lessons

 - Alex Sharp

Golden Slam, home hopes and maiden medals are all in the offering out at Tokyo 2020. Who will strike gold?

Novak Djokovic - Jeux Olympiques Tokyo 2020©Philippe Montigny / KMSP

The Ariake Tennis Park is the setting where dreams of Olympic glory will unfold over the next fortnight. Tokyo 2020 is under way and tennis joins the sporting smorgasbord on Saturday in Japan’s capital. Plenty of the world’s elite players have signed up and learned their potential path to clinching a prestigious medal next weekend.

Novak Djokovic Roland-Garros 2021© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Djokovic on the road to a calendar Golden Slam?

World No.1 Novak Djokovic, off the back of recently lifting both the Roland-Garros and Wimbledon titles, opens his quest for a first Olympic gold medal against world No.139 Bolivian Hugo Dellien.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who could endure a Roland-Garros rematch with Lorenzo Musetti in the third round, is still on track to complete a calendar Golden Slam. Holding aloft all four majors and Olympic singles gold in a season is a feat only ever achieved by Steffi Graff in 1988. Adding to the magnitude of the potential achievement, only Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams have posted a career Golden Slam.

Most of the chatter surrounding the men’s event revolves around Djokovic. Andrey Rublev (in a pulsating opener against Kei Nishikori) and Alexander Zverev represent seeded quarter-final and semi-final opponents respectively.

No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev leads the charge in the bottom half and will have to navigate past mercurial Alexander Bublik at the first hurdle, with Roland-Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas being tested against German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber.

In terms of defending champions, 2012 and 2016 gold medalist Andy Murray has an almighty task to topple No.9 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, whilst Monica Puig couldn’t make the trip, so there will be a new champion on the women’s roll of honour this summer.

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Naomie Osaka / Roland-Garros 2021©Philippe Montigny / FFT

A women's high-calibre draw

On the women’s side top seed and Wimbledon winner Ash Barty takes her Olympic bow facing the Spanish world No.48 Sara Sorribes Tormo. Home taliswoman Naomi Osaka headlines the bottom half of the draw, taking on China’s Zheng Saisai.

16 of the top 20 women have jetted to Tokyo to provide a high-calibre draw. No.3 seed Aryna Sabalenka joins Barty in the top half and has to defeat Poland’s Magda Linette to get the ball rolling.

Another standout first round is No.9 seed Belinda Bencic pitched with American Jessica Pegula. Roland-Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza all land in the top half too.

Osaka is in line to take on 2020 Roland-Garros winner Iga Swiatek at the quarter-final stage in a bottom half of the draw with cracking openers. Arab trailblazer Ons Jabeur will battle with the heroic Carla Suarez Navarro, whilst Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova will hope to replicate her recent form over the net to Alize Cornet.

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Katerina Siniakova Barbora Krejcikova Roland-Garros 2021©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Who will be crowned in doubles?

Reigning Roland-Garros winners Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova lead the women’s doubles field. Australians Barty and Storm Sanders hope to pass home pairing of Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya.

Doubles No.1 Elise Mertens and Alison van Uytvanck face a Spanish test in the form of Muguruza alongside Suarez Navarro. Meanwhile, No.3 seeds Kiki Bertens, in her last professional event, and fellow Dutchwoman Demi Schuurs take on formidable French duo Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic.

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Earlier this month Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic became Wimbledon champions, now they’re flying the flag for Croatia in Tokyo.

Their men’s doubles medal quest will be challenged by a strong field. ROC pairings Aslan Karatsev/Medvedev and Karen Khachanov/Rublev will be in contention.

France’s golden hopes lie with No.2 seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who have to surpass British combination of Murray and Joe Salisbury.

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