Olympics – Osaka of Japan returns to the spotlight as the Games open on center court | Tennis News


Japan’s Naomi Osaka will return to center stage on Saturday, starting her Olympic campaign in the first game on center court as the home crowd favorite after taking a mental health break two months ago.

Osaka, a quadruple Grand Slam champion and world number two, has not played a competitive game since retiring from Roland Garros in May amid controversy over her decision to skip all tournament press conferences in the goal to protect his mental well-being.

But with all of her major wins on hard courts – the same surface used in Tokyo – the 23-year-old remains widely regarded as one of Japan’s strongest gold medal contenders in a field of 64 each. for simple ladies and gentlemen. some of the biggest names in the sport are missing.

Amid increased coronavirus pandemic restrictions, Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Spain’s Rafael Nadal, each with several Grand Slam tournaments under his belt, both pulled out ahead of the Games, with the defending l ‘US Open Dominic Thiem.

In women’s singles, two-time slam winner Simona Halep will be absent, as will American sisters Serena and Venus Williams https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/serena-williams-skip-tokyo-games-2021-06 -27, who each have four gold medals. Another American player, teenager Coco Gauff, withdrew earlier this week after testing positive for COVID-19.

For Osaka, also making her Olympic debut, the challenge begins when she takes on China’s 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai in the first round at Ariake Tennis Park in downtown Tokyo in a contest set to start at 11:00 a.m. local time (02:00 GMT).

Osaka could potentially meet 2020 Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek in a successful quarter-final, while world number one Ashleigh Barty from Australia could wait across the board.

In an essay written for Time Magazine earlier this month, Osaka said it stands by its decision to step out of court but is now ready to make Japan proud at the Games.

“The Olympics in themselves are special, but having the opportunity to play in front of Japanese fans is a dream come true,” Osaka wrote.


Players from 46 countries will compete for Olympic glory in a competition that could be complicated by the intense summer heat in Tokyo, with the Japan Meteorological Agency expecting temperatures to reach 33 degrees Celsius by the start of the Games.

A spokesperson for the International Tennis Federation confirmed to Reuters that the roof of the center court can be closed if the heat is excessive or if it rains.

At the end of the first day of the center court procedure, Novak Djokovic will begin his quest to become the first man to complete a “Golden Slam” – victories in all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single year plus a medal of Olympic gold in singles.

Germany’s Steffi Graf is the only player to win a Golden Slam so far, in 1988, but top-ranked Djokovic could soon match her feat if he wins in Tokyo and then wins the US Open title. in August.

The 34-year-old’s victories at this year’s Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon already mean he has joined rivals Federer and Nadal with 20 Grand Slam titles each.

Djokovic faces 139th Bolivian Hugo Dellien in the opener and could face a possible quarter-final encounter with number five seed Andrey Rublev or Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who won the bronze medal in the Rio 2016 Games.

The Serbian could also look to extend a five-game winning streak against fourth seed Alexander Zverev, a possible semi-final opponent.

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