Djokovic thriving off athletes’ village energy as he marches on

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Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

World number one Novak Djokovic made light work of Jan-Lennard Struff on Monday to continue his progress at the Olympic Games, and he revealed he is thriving off the energy in Tokyo as he copes with the weight of expectation.

Djokovic is aiming to complete a Golden Slam this year, having already swept up the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles.

Olympic gold is next on his list, before the Serbian will head to the US Open.

Struff was no match for the 34-year-old on Monday, as he teed up a round-of-16 tie with Alejandro Davidovich Fokina by beating the German 6-4, 6-3.
Djokovic will be joined by fellow favourites Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev, as the singles competition begins to hot up.

Djokovic is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to complete a Golden Slam, though even if he did not have such a feat in his sights, he would still have the expectation of clinching gold, given Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal chose not to compete.

“I think that once you reach the top spots of the rankings and start winning slams, you’re going to experience different kinds of expectations and pressure from yourself and from people around,” Djokovic said.

“It’s kind of a normal thing that a lot of athletes from our sport have been experiencing in the past and it’s going to happen in the future.”

The 20-time grand slam champion also revealed he is splitting his time between a hotel and the Olympic athletes’ village, as he looks to soak up the atmosphere in Tokyo, despite the ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

“I only stayed in the Olympic village the first few days in Rio, then I moved when the competition started to the hotel,” he explained.

“Here, I’m between the hotel and the village but I’m spending every single day in the village mostly and the hotel is mostly for sleeping over, basically, and having my own routine in the morning.

“Other than that, I’m always in the village because it’s just so special. Most of the tournaments I’m in a hotel anyway and this [Olympic Games] happens once in four years. Of course, I try to balance things out with keeping my own routines and things that make me feel good, but I’m thriving also on that wonderful energy in the village.”

Zverev moved confidently into the round of 16, defeating Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan Riveros 6-2, 6-2 in just 71 minutes.

In fact, his greatest nemesis was the spidercam, which came a little too close for the German’s comfort.

Zverev clipped a ball at the camera suspended above his head as he prepared to serve – the world number five claiming he almost hit the wire holding the device in place when he threw the ball.

“It was three meters above me, I almost hit the wire rope when I was throwing the ball. It just hung too low,” he said, though the chair umpire disagreed.
There was ultimately no negative impact on Zverev’s performance, and the 24-year-old will face Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili for a place in the last eight.

Basilashvili got the better of Italian world number 26 Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to secure his progression.

The gulf in quality between Daniil Medvedev and Sumit Nagal of India was clear to see, as the world number two – who is representing the Russian Olympic Committee – cruised through in just 66 minutes.

Nagal, ranked 160th in the world, dropped serve in the first game of the match and never looked likely to recover, and the Australian Open runner-up breezed into the next round 6-2, 6-1.

Medvedev will next go up against Italy’s Fabio Fognini. The Russian has faced the world number 31 on four occasions, winning three times.

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