Andy Murray has overcome career-threatening hip surgery to give himself a shot at completing a hat-trick of Olympic tennis titles, but the Briton will have to hit the ground running in Tokyo after being given a tough first-round draw yesterday.
Murray’s limited court time over the last year has seen him drop out of the top 100 and left him unseeded at his fourth Olympics. The result is a pairing with Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 20-year-old world number 15, who beat the Scot in straight sets at the US Open last year and reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon two weeks ago. Murray, 34, also showed signs of his improving form at Wimbledon, reaching the third round after winning two consecutive Grand Slam matches for the first time in four years. Still fighting back to fitness after a second hip surgery, he could certainly have done with an easier start, but he is determined to give his all for an Olympic tennis tournament that may not float every professional’s boat but holds a special place in the Scot’s heart.
Novak Djokovic will pursue an elusive Olympic gold medal in an event decimated by a raft of withdrawals, including those of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Five of the men’s top 10 players will be absent including 2008 Olympic champion Rafel Nadal and Roger Federer.
Dominic Thiem has opted to sit out as well, along with Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini and Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.
Djokovic, 34-3 this season, is the undoubted favourite for the men’s title. He starts against 139th-ranked Hugo Dellien of Bolivia. If successful here, he would need the US Open to become the first man to capture the Golden Grand Slam.
Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka will have the support of the host nation behind her as one of the stars of the Olympics. Osaka will draw plenty of attention as she returns following her shock French Open pull-out over mental health concerns. Serena Williams is missing from the women’s draw, while the other absentees are Simona Halep, who is still nursing a calf problem, former US Open winner Bianca Andreescu and surprise 2016 gold medallist Monica Puig. Osaka’s route to gold at Ariake Tennis Park begins with a first-round tie against China’s Zheng Saisai.
Poland’s Iga Swiatek, last year’s French Open winner and a doubles gold medallist at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, could await her in the quarter-finals, with Ashleigh Barty, the newly-crowned Wimbledon champion, the top seed.
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