Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev called on organisers to delay the start times of Olympic tennis matches as players laboured in the sweltering Tokyo summer heat on the opening day of the tournament. World number one Djokovic encountered little resistance from Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien in a 6-2, 6-2 first round win, but like many others found the playing conditions particularly demanding.
Medvedev, a 6-4, 7-6 (10/8) winner over Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, suggested putting back matches until the evening, having started his opening round shortly after midday in blazing sunshine.
“I agree with him 100%,” said Djokovic, who revealed he had asked the International Tennis Federation (ITF) about potentially changing the daily 11am start. “To be honest I don’t understand why they don’t start matches at say 3pm. I’ve heard that for tennis there’s some kind of curfew and they have to finish by midnight. If that’s the case, I just finished the last match (on centre court) and it’s not even 5pm. We still have like seven hours to play, they have the lights on all the courts. They (could) make life much easier for all of us thanks to this. I just don’t understand why they don’t move it. I doubt they will change the decision but we’re hoping that they will.”
Djokovic will take on Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in round two, in an event missing half the men’s top 10 players, including 2008 Olympic champion Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Medvedev admitted the conditions were “some of the worst” he had ever experienced. The Russian narrowly avoided going three sets after saving a set point in the second set tie-break before sealing victory over the dangerous Bublik.
Medvedev, a two-time Grand Slam finalist who will meet 160th-ranked Sumit Nagal of India in the second round, is fairly well acclimatised to the heat, spending his summers on the French Riviera after relocating from Russia.
Poland’s Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, suffered with the heat and the glare of the sun as she opened the day’s programme on the main court. “Not only the temperature was hard, but also the sun because on one side it was pretty hard to serve,” Swiatek said after a 6-2, 6-2 win over Mona Barthel.
Sixth seed Swiatek, in the same quarter of the women’s draw as Japanese star Naomi Osaka, will play Spain’s Paula Badosa for a place in the last 16. Reigning Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova advanced when her Kazakh opponent Zarina Diyas retired down 5-2 in the first set.
Last month’s beaten French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova inflicted a crushing 6-0, 6-1 defeat on Italy’s Sara Errani, the 2012 runner-up in Paris. Osaka was originally scheduled to kick off the tournament against China’s Zheng Saisai, but her match was pushed back 24 hours after she was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron in Friday’s opening ceremony.
Andy Murray, the defending two-time singles gold medallist, began his fourth Olympics by combining with Joe Salisbury to knock out French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 6-2 in the men’s doubles. Murray, now ranked a lowly 104th, takes on Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round of the singles.
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