Novak Djokovic is within one match of his first singles gold medal at the Olympics and warned: “My level of tennis is getting better and better”
You sweat a lot but you don't have the heat. You don't have the sun which in combination with the humidity is just brutal Novak Djokovic
The top seed set up a semi-final with Alexander Zverev after ending home hopes in the Tokyo tournament by crushing Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-0 in a mere 72 minutes.
But the Serb aiming to emulate Steffi Graf as the only other tennis player to achieve a Golden Slam of the four majors and a Games crown in the same year will take nothing for granted.
Wimbledon champion Djokovic is top of the pile in terms of slams won with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal on 20,
But he has suffered last-four Olympic losses to eventual champions Nadal in Beijing 2008 – where he won bronze – and Britain’s Andy Murray in London 2012.
Yet the world No. 1 is upbeat.
Djokovic, 34, said: “I am very happy. It (his last- eight victory) was my best performance in the tournament. Matches are not getting easier, but my level of tennis is getting better and better. ”
Organisers scheduled the quarter-finals to begin in late afternoon following suggestions from the likes of Djokovic who felt players struggled to cope with the heat of 30-plus temperatures and over 70 per cent humidity earlier in the day.
The Serbian said: “Playing after 5pn is completely different. Obviously there is a little bit of a breeze but it is still very, very humid. You sweat a lot but you don’t have the heat. You don’t have the sun which in combination with the humidity is just brutal.”
And Djokovic coolly dismissed Nishikori who had not beaten the Serb in seven years, to equal the record of 13 Olympic wins held by Federer.
His powerful and deep groundshots from the baseline wore down Nishikori. The unbroken Djokovic won 85 per cent of his first service points.
German Zverev defeated Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. 6-4 6-1 to secure his date with Djokovic.
Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta will take on Karen Khachanov for a final spot after stunning second favourite Daniil Medvedev 6-2 7-6(5) over 103 minutes.
Mevedev said: “I changed everything I had on. I wanted to change my skin because I was sweating like I never did before. It was terrible,” said the Russian Olympic Committee player.
“I was wet like hell. I couldn’t toss the ball well, once I tossed the ball and got water in my eyes. It was not easy to play.”
Busta, the sixth seed who claimed his sixth Tour-level championship at the Hamburg European Open earlier in the month, rallied from a break down in the second set to produce 11 winners against his Russian Olympic Committee opponent.
Twelfth-seed Khachanov, also of the ROC, overcame Ugo Humbert of France 7-6(4) 4-6 6-2 in 2hr.34min.
“I felt well physically, I felt well mentally,” the ROC’s Khachanov told ITFtennis.com. “I came here to fight for medals and I’m playing good tennis so far. I’m happy that I’m managing to find solutions to the problems as they appear – this is tennis. I’m enjoying [it] so far, and I want to keep going like that.”
* Quotes by BBC and ITF.