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Olympic countdown: Tennis stars to watch out for at the Games

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New Delhi, July 21, 2021- Despite an enormous bunch of tennis players pulling out of the Tokyo Olympics, the event has kept some sheen. There are a few established names who will be itching to leave their mark at the mega-event. We take a look at some of them.

MEN:

Novak Djokovic (Serbia)

The 34-year-old could become the first man in tennis to complete a calendar grand slam, also called golden slam. With this year’s Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in his kitty, Djokovic’s eyes are fixed on getting a gold medal at the Olympics against his name. The world No. 1 has a bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He came fourth in London in 2012, losing to Juan Martin del Potro. Djokovic had a shock first-round loss at Rio 2016, again to del Potro. With a depleted field in men’s singles following several withdrawals, Djokovic will start as firm favourite to win the gold medal.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece)

The world No 4, considered to be Djokovic’s main challenger, will appear in his maiden Olympics at Tokyo. The 22-year-old has been in top form this year, winning 40 out of 50 matches this year. In Grand Slams, it has been a mixed bag for Tsitsipas. He reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, where he lost to Daniil Medvedev. In the French Open final, he lost to Novak Djokovic despite having a two-set lead. Tsitsipas had a shock first-round loss to Frances Tiafoe at Wimbledon. Apart from singles, Tsitsipas will play in mixed doubles alongside world No. 19 Maria Sakkari, the semifinalist at this year’s French Open.

Daniil Medvedev (Russia)

The world No. 2 will make his maiden foray into the Olympics at Tokyo. With one hardcourt title under his belt in 2021, the Russian has a shot at grabbing a gold medal. 2021 began well, with Medvedev leading Russia to win the second edition of the ATP Cup followed by becoming runner-up at the Australian Open, losing to Djokovic in the final. He won titles at Marseille and Mallorca apart from reaching the quarterfinals at the French Open and Wimbledon. Apart from singles at Tokyo, Medvedev is pairing up with Aslan Karatsev for the men’s doubles event.

Alexander Zverev (Germany)

Tokyo will be the first Olympics for the world No. 5 after missing out on Rio 2016 due to an injury. He is seen as the favourite for gold with his aggressive play. Zverev has defeated Novak Djokovic in the past despite losing to him in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year. He won titles in Acapulco and Madrid, making him a strong contender for the French Open. He progressed well before losing to Tsitsipas in the semifinals. At Wimbledon, Zverev struggled before losing in the fourth round. Besides singles, Zverev will compete in doubles alongside Jan-Lennard Struff and possibly, mixed doubles.

WOMEN:

Naomi Osaka (Japan)

Widely considered as a favourite for gold in women’s singles, Naomi has made more headlines for off-field incidents this year. After winning her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, Naomi had to withdraw from the French Open due to mental health issues amid a furore over not attending press conferences. Later, she pulled out of Wimbledon for personal reasons. The Japanese, who loves playing on hard surfaces, will return to tennis action at the Olympics after two months. The 2021 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year will look to not disappoint her home fans and put out a powerful display at the Olympics.

Ashleigh Barty (Australia)

Coming into 2021 after a year’s break from tennis due to the pandemic, Ashleigh has been in solid form. With a win-loss record of 35-6, she is one contender to challenge Naomi Osaka for a gold medal at the Olympics. The Queenslander won the very first tournament she played in 2021, the Yarra Valley Classic. Though she crashed out in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Ashleigh was able to successfully defend her Miami Open crown. She won both singles and doubles titles at Stuttgart and was runner-up at Madrid. Although an injury forced her to cut short her French Open campaign, Ashleigh won her second Grand Slam title in Wimbledon. The 25-year-old will hope to continue the momentum in Tokyo.

Barbora Krejcikova (Czech Republic)

The newest tennis star from the Czech Republic can consider 2021 as her breakthrough year. A maiden WTA title at Strasbourg in singles was surprising for someone deemed as a doubles specialist. Unseeded in French Open, she defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to win her maiden Grand Slam in her first-ever singles final. She also went on to add a doubles crown with partner Katerina Siniakova, making her the first player in 21 years since Mary Pierce to lift both trophies. A fourth-round appearance at the Wimbledon was followed by her first hardcourt title in Prague last week. One can’t count her out from singles and doubles in the Olympics.

Iga Swiatek (Poland)

The 20-year-old had been voicing her excitement about the Olympics for a long time. With a father who represented the country in rowing in the 1988 Olympics and a doubles gold medallist at the 2018 Youth Olympics, Iga knows how to deal with the pressure of a mega-event. She had a breakthrough year in 2020, capturing the attention of the audience on the way to become the French Open winner at 19. This year, Iga reached the fourth round at the Australian Open where she lost to Simona Halep. She clinched a title in Adelaide followed by the Italian Open. At the French Open, she reached the quarterfinals in singles and became runners-up in the final. She reached the fourth round at Wimbledon before losing to Ons Jabeur. Iga’s desire of playing in the Olympics will keep her in good stead in Tokyo.  (Agency)

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