TOKYO, July 29: Novak Djokovic eased into the Tokyo Olympics men’s tennis semi-finals on Thursday with a straight-sets thrashing of Japanese hope Kei Nishikori.
The world number one, chasing a calendar Golden Grand Slam, ended home interest in the tennis with a ruthless 6-2, 6-0 victory in only 70 minutes.
Djokovic has never won the Olympic singles title, with a bronze medal in 2008 his best result at the Games, but will face either Alexander Zverev or Jeremy Chardy in the last four.
The 34-year-old Serb, who has already captured the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles this season, was never in trouble against Nishikori, who made 16 unforced errors.
The former world number four did save two match points in the final game, but Djokovic made no mistake on the next opportunity.
The quarter-final was played in cooler conditions than earlier in the tournament after Djokovic lobbied organisers to change the schedule, moving the day’s start time from 11:00 am local time (0200 GMT) to 3:00 pm.
Djokovic is also in action later Thursday in the mixed doubles quarter-finals alongside Nina Stojanovic, facing Germany’s Kevin Krawietz and Laura Siegemund.
Winning without Federer: Bencic reaches Olympic tennis final
Belinda Bencic and Swiss tennis are doing just fine without Roger Federer at the Olympics.
The 12th-ranked Bencic beat Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the gold-medal match at the Tokyo Games.
And that wasn’t all.
After a short rest, Bencic was scheduled to play again later with Swiss partner Viktorija Golubic against the Brazilian pair of Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani in the semifinals of the doubles tournament.
“To have the medal for me is the greatest thing,” Bencic said. “Now I go to the doubles and I hope to do it again so it’s not over yet, but I can really, really enjoy this moment.”
If she also wins in doubles, Bencic would become the fifth player to reach two finals at the same Olympics since tennis returned at the Games in 1988, joining Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Murray and Nicolas Massu.
“In the next match I can be more relaxed because I already have a medal,” Bencic said.
The results means that Switzerland is guaranteed a tennis medal at a fourth consecutive Olympics after Federer and Stan Wawrinka won gold in doubles in 2008, Federer took silver in singles in 2012 and Martina Hingis and Timea Bacsinszky claimed silver in doubles in 2016.
Federer announced a week before the Tokyo Games began that he wouldn’t play at the Olympics because he “experienced a setback” with his knee during the grass-court season. That left Bencic as Switzerland’s most accomplished player in Tokyo and her performance represents a personal breakthrough for someone whose best Grand Slam result was reaching the semifinals at the 2019 U.S. Open.
Bencic saved six set points on her serve before eventually taking control of the opening set.
When a return from Rybakina landed in the net on the first match point after nearly three hours, Bencic dropped to her knees and covered her face with her hands as she began crying.
Play started four hours later than on previous days after organizers finally acted upon a request from players to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Still, it was steamy inside the Ariake Tennis Park with the temperature at 88 degrees F (31 degrees C) and with enough humidity to make it feel like 99 degrees F (37 degrees C) when play began.
But afternoon shadows quickly crept across the court and there was a consistent breeze to make it more bearable than playing in the bright morning sun as on previous days.
Fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and 2019 French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic were to play in the other semifinal later.
The first man to reach the semifinals of the men’s singles draw was 12th-seeded Karen Khachanov of ROC, who beat Ugo Humbert of France 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3. Khachanov will next face Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
In men’s doubles, an all-Croatian final was set up between the pairings of Marin Cilic-Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic-Mate Pavic.
Also, the top-seeded Czech duo of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova reached the women’s final. Krejcikova won both the singles and doubles (with Siniakova) titles at this year’s French Open. (AFP/AP)