Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic remains on course for Olympic gold and maintain his bid for a Golden Slam this year – with the help of the scheduling committee.
The Tokyo Games favourite complained about playing in the heat and humidity of the day after reaching the second round, declaring “you feel weights on your shoulders”.
But the Serb was given an early evening slot as he defeated German Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4 6-3 to reach the last 16 where he will face Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
Djokovic, who had come through his first round in straight sets, overcame world No.48 Struff in just 74 minutes. He claimed the first set by breaking the German to love.
The 34-year-old secured an early break in the second to ease home as he extended his unbeaten record against Struff to six.
Djokovic would become the first male player to claim all four Slams and the Olympic title in the same year should he end up with winning in Japan and going on to claim the US Open crown (Steffi Graf the lone female).
It seems the cards are falling in favour of the world No.1. The more palatable scheduling for him follows rivals Andy Murray and Andrey Rublev taken out of his path. British two-time Games king Murray withdrew from the singles through injury and fifth seed Andrey Rublev, of the Russian Olympic Committee, was defeated by Japan’s Kei Nishikori.
But Djokovic will take nothing for granted with the likes of Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas still in the field.
German Zverev, the world No.5, could meet Djokovic in the last-four.
Zverev, who made the last 16 by defeating Daniel Galan Riveros 6-2 6-2, would like it to be in the daytime rather than the evening, should the projected showdown come to pass.
Zverev, who meets Nikoloz Basilashvili for a quarter-final spot, said in Bild: “During the day is better! Take a look at his Australian Open night record. That’s kind of 27-1 or 30-1. The only match he lost was against (Stan) Wawrinka (in the 2014 quarter-finals). He would have won against aliens too.”
Medvedev will fight for a last-eight place after beating India’s Sumit Nagal 6-2 6-1.
Greek debutant Tsitsipas takes on American Frances Tiafoe for his opportunity to do the same after beating German Philipp Kohlschreiber. And he is on a revenge mission, having been stunned by Tiafoe at Wimbledon. Tsitsipas said: “I’ve learned my lessons (from Wimbledon).”
Fokina defeated Australian John Millman over three sets. Georgian Basilashvili also had to go the distance to beat Italian Lorenzo Sonego.
In the men’s doubles, British pair Jamie Murray, Andy’s brother, and Neal Skupski were beaten 6-3 6-4 in the second round by host duo Nishikori and Ben McLachan.
It means seven-time major champion Murray, 35, has been unable to get beyond the stage in four Olympic Games.