Olympic organisers will be relieved to learn that Novak Djokovic, the World No 1, has decided to compete in Tokyo, now with the quest for the Gold Medal well in his sights.
I have many amazing memories winning the gold while competing and representing Belarus in previous Games. But with all the challenges we are facing as it relates to the pandemic, I know in my heart this is the right decision for myself and team. I look forward to returning to the 2024 Olympics in Paris to represent Belarus! I wish all my fellow athletes a safe, healthy, and successful Games. Victoria Azarenka
The Serbian revealed in a post on Twitter that he will be travelling to the Olympics to take part in the tennis event.
The 34-year-old is looking to emulate Steffi Graff’s Golden Slam in 1988 when the German won all four majors as well as Olympic Gold in a calendar year, the only player to have done so.
Having already won this year’s Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon, Djokovic now needs to win the Olympic Gold tennis medal and the US Open to make history in the men’s game.
“I booked my flight for Tokyo and will proudly be joining #TeamSerbia for the Olympics,” Djokovic wrote in his post on Twitter.
Djokovic joined Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Switzerland’s Roger Federer on 20 Grand Slam trophies when he defeated Italy’s Matteo Berrettini to clinch his 6th Wimbledon title on Sunday.
A bronze medallist at Beijing 2008, Djokovic is now set to compete in his 3rd Olympics, while many of the prominent men will be absent in Tokyo, including Nadal and Federer, who have opted to to skip the event.
The Olympics continues to be hit by withdrawals, as Olympic medallist Victoria Azarenka of Belarus joins the growing list.
Azarenka claimed bronze in singles and gold in mixed doubles at London 2012, and has cited the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason behind her decision to pull out.
“I have many amazing memories winning the gold while competing and representing Belarus in previous Games,” Azarenka wrote in a post on social media.
“But with all the challenges we are facing as it relates to the pandemic, I know in my heart this is the right decision for myself and team.
“I look forward to returning to the 2024 Olympics in Paris to represent Belarus! I wish all my fellow athletes a safe, healthy, and successful Games.”
Djokovic was hesitate about competing in Tokyo because of the strict restrictions on athletes at the Games as well as the absence of fans, but, after speaking to his team and taking several days to deliberate over his decision, he has elected to travel to Japan, and could be Serbia’s flag-carrier at the opening ceremony.
The 34-year-old announced the news on social media with a cute video to six-year-old Koujirou Owaki on his birthday, with the Japanese youngster having gone viral for his tennis videos replicating idol Djokovic.
“Happy birthday my friend, happy sixth birthday – you’re looking great,” he said in a video message on his super fan’s birthday.
“I’m following your tennis, your progress. All the best, I wish you luck and hopefully I can see you in Tokyo Olympic games!”
Confirming his participation this summer, he also tweeted alongside the video: “Cannot disappoint my little friend Koujirou. I booked my flight for Tokyo and will proudly be joining Team Serbia for the Olympics.”
Explaining his reluctance to compete at Tokyo, Djokovic said on Sunday: “I received that news [about fans being banned] yesterday or two days ago. That was really disappointing to hear.
“I also hear that there’s going to be a lot of restrictions within the Village. Possibly you would not be able to see other athletes perform live.
“I can’t even have my stringer that is very important part of my team. I can’t have a stringer. I’m limited with the amount of people I can take in my team as well.
“I’ll have to think about it. Right now, as I said, my plan was always to go to Olympic Games. But right now I’m a little bit divided. It’s kind of 50/50 because of what I heard in the last couple days.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s Alex de Minaur is the latest to have tested positive for COVID-19 prior to his scheduled departure for the Tokyo Olympics, the Australian Olympic Committee announced on Friday.
The World No 15 returned the positive test in Spain before he was due to fly to Japan, said David Hughes, the AOC’s chief medical officer.
“I don’t want to specifically talk about his medical information,” Hughes told a new conference.
Hughes said the 22-year-old had tested negative on 5 July after leaving the Wimbledon bubble 3 days earlier, and had then flewn to Spain, where he developed symptoms and tested positive.
The Olympics are due to open on 23 July, with the first round of the tennis tournament starting a day later.