The ITF has published the final entry list for the Olympic Tennis Event as top players from around the world arrive in Japan to compete for their nations at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
It Is not a secret that I'm aiming for gold. It is gruelling [the schedule], but I am confident because of all of the wins this season. Winning a medal is my goal. Novak Djokovic
Players representing 46 countries will compete for Olympic glory as the competition gets underway on Saturday 24 July at the Ariake Tennis Park.
Seven of those players – Petra Kvitova, Elena Vesnina, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori, Rajeev Ram and Novak Djokovic – will all be hoping to repeat or build-on past success as medallists at previous Olympic Games.
There are also a number of Olympic debutants who will be eyeing a place on the podium at first time of asking, with players including Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka and Aryna Sabalenka amongst those competing at their first games. The highly competitive field includes the current top ten women and seven of the top ten men in the 2021 season standings.
As a key member of their 2010 Davis Cup winning team, Djokovic is no stranger to success on the world stage for Serbia, and he will be aiming to improve on his Beijing 2008 bronze by adding a fourth gold to his nation’s all-time tally across all sports.
“I am very proud to pack for Tokyo and join our national team in the fight for the shiniest medals on the Olympic stage,” Djokovic said: “For me, playing for Serbia has always been a special joy and motivation and I will do my best to make us all happy!”
Djokovic’s path to a Golden Slam will be decided on Thursday when the draws will be made in Tokyo at 3am UK time.
“It Is not a secret that I’m aiming for gold,” said Djokovic, who recently equaled Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam record of 20 major titles, adding he would also focus on the US Open after the Olympics.
“It is gruelling [the schedule], but I am confident because of all of the wins this season. Winning a medal is my goal.
Having won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, Djokovic is aiming to become the first male tennis player to claim the Golden Grand Slam, one of the sports rarest feats and achieved when a player wins all four Grand Slams and a gold medal in the singles event at the Olympics in the same calendar year.
Steffi Graf won the Golden Grand Slam in 1988, and until now, she remains the only holder.
Since most of the top-ranked players such as Nadal and Federer have opted to not travel to Tokyo for the Olympics this year, Djokovic is considered the favourite to win the gold medal.
Daniil Medvedev is probably his biggest threat in a tournament played on the same surface as the US Open and many of the other American summer tournaments, meaning conditions are likely to be similar to those in which Medvedev beat Djokovic in Cincinnati two years ago.
The pair can only meet in the final, a clash that would be worthy of a gold medal match, but the rest of the draw will go a long way to deciding if or in what shape they may arrive there.
The other main contenders for the title are expected to be Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev, who are the only other top 10 players in the men’s draw.
Tsitsipas is the man to watch on the hard courts in Tokyo as the Greek big hitter had Djokovic on the ropes in the French Open final last month, but a surge from the greatest player in the world saw him blow his rival away in the final three sets.
In a best of three contest, Tsitsipas will fancy his chances of toppling Djokovic, though, while two-time Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray is also targeting a medal, but his recent form and limp exit at Wimbledon suggests that this might be a long shot for the Brit.
Djokovic, the World No 1 is also the favourite to win the US Open, the Grand Slam that he has won 3 times already in his decorated career.
On the women’s side, World No 1 Ash Barty will be hoping to make a mark at her first Games but her path will be harder since the women’s singles has been far less decimated by withdrawals.
Serena Williams’ absence is a blow but Naomi Osaka will play her home Games, a first competitive appearance since withdrawing from the French Open in fraught circumstances, creating the potential for a gold medal clash between her and Barty, the Wimbledon champion.
Barty will be the top seed while Osaka, the World No 2, will be seeded second.
“I think representing your country is the highest honour,” Barty said. “You’re playing for something bigger than yourself; you’re playing to make people proud, and that’s not just with the results, that’s with the attitude.”
The two have met on a similar surface before, facing off in the final in Beijing two years ago where Osaka came from behind to beat Barty 3-6 6-3 6-2, but both have evolved considerably since then and could put on quite the show if they do end up in the medal match.
The big question is where where No 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka falls in the 64-player draw as she will be a projected semi-final opponent for one of them and, as a remorselessly big hitter with a fine hard-court record, the Belarusian will take plenty out of whoever has to face her.
Osaka is a big star in Japan but she has not hit a ball in competitive action since she pulled out of the French Open while there are concerns as to how she copes with the pressure of playing an Olympics Games on home soil.
At her best, Osaka will a real contender to win the gold medal, but it is hard to assess her form without any match practice in the last few weeks.
Poland’s Iga Swiatek is one to watch after her meteoric rise to the top of the game in quick time.
The 20-year-old has spoken about her excitement of playing in her first Olympic Games and she is a big-hitter that can make a good run.
Another player who will be a strong medal contender will be Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova, who is representing the Czech Republic in Tokyo.
David Haggerty, ITF President, said: “These players know the unique and special experience of representing their country at the Davis Cup, Billie Jean King Cup and other Olympic qualification events, and we are very fortunate that despite the challenges of the past 18 months, we are now here in Tokyo for the Olympic Games.
“We wish everyone competing good luck and hope their experience in Tokyo creates lifelong memories.”
The tennis event at the Olympic Games will start on Saturday 24 July and reach a conclusion on Sunday 1 August.
Men’s and women’s singles will be complemented by doubles for both, and there is also a mixed doubles tournament, the draw for which will be made on 27 July.
Several players will compete in both singles and doubles competitions, with all matches to be played at the Ariake Coliseum venue in Tokyo.
Matches are played over the best of 3 sets, with the tradition of playing the men’s final over five sets dropped for Tokyo 2020.