Djokovic starts search for gold in Tokyo against 139th Dellien

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Tennis player Novak Djokovic speaks to media before traveling to Japan, where he will represent Serbia at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, in Belgrade, Serbia, July 20, 2021. REUTERS/Zorana Jevtic

TOKYO— Novak Djokovic, the tennis world’s number one, begins the next leg of his quest to become the first male player to complete the Golden Slam when he takes on Bolivia’s 139th Hugo Dellien in the Olympics in the opening round Play in Tokyo.

The Serb will have to win in Tokyo and later this year the US Open to deliver the feat so far only achieved by Germany’s Steffi Graf in 1988.

Djokovic, 34, completed the third leg en route to the Golden Slam when he added the Wimbledon title to his Australian Open and Roland Garros triumphed in 2021 to rival rivals Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal on the record 20 men’s titles.

Players from 46 nations compete for Olympic glory as the competition kicks off on Saturday at Ariake Tennis Park.

Home favorite Naomi Osaka meets Zheng Saisai from China in the opening round of the women’s matches.

The world number two, Osaka, has not played since she retired from the French Open in May after her first round match in Paris.

She left the clay-court Grand Slam after being fined and threatened with disqualification for refusing to attend mandatory post-match press conferences due to mental health issues and later skipping Wimbledon.

FILE PHOTO: French Open

FILE PHOTO: Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 30, 2021 Photo taken on May 30, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka reacts during her first round match against Romanian Patricia Maria Tig REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam winner, will be a firm favorite to triumph on the Tokyo hard courts, with all of her majors on the same surface.

In the women’s singles at the Olympics, the 23-year-old Japanese will face the world number one Ash Barty, who will make her debut at the Games against 48th-ranked Sara Sorribes Tormo from Spain.

Briton Andy Murray, who is bidding for an unprecedented third consecutive Olympic title in men’s singles, will be featured in an opening round blockbuster against Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is in 15th place.

Daniil Medvedev, the men’s second seed, will compete in Tokyo as a representative of the Russian Olympic Committee after the country was stripped of its flag and anthem over doping violations.

The number two in the world will face Kazakhstan Alexander Bublik, the 37th in the world, in the first round.

Medvedev’s compatriot, Andrey Rublev, drew Kei Nishikori, who will be Japan’s main medal hope in men’s singles.

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