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Djokovic says he will play Tokyo Olympics ‘with much pride’

By AFP - Jul 17,2021 - Last updated at Jul 17,2021

PARIS — World No. 1 Novak Djokovic said on Thursday he will play at the Tokyo Olympics, giving him the opportunity to achieve the first calendar Golden Slam by a male player.

“I booked my flight for Tokyo and will proudly be joining #TeamSerbia for the Olympics,” tweeted Djokovic in English.

“With much pride I’m packing for Tokyo and joining our national team in the fight for the brightest medals at the Olympic arenas,” he then tweeted in Serbian.

“For me playing for Serbia was always a special joy and motivation, and I will give my best to make us all happy. Let’s go.” 

The 34-year-old has already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon titles this year.

He needs Olympic gold and then the US Open to become the first man to capture the Golden Grand Slam.

The calendar Golden Slam has only ever been achieved once in the women’s game when Steffi Graf swept the board of all four majors and Olympic gold at Seoul in 1988.

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi have claimed career Golden Slams.

Djokovic’s path to potential gold in Tokyo had already been eased by the decision of rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to skip the tournament.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem is also an absentee.

Djokovic won a bronze medal in singles at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where he was defeated by Nadal in the semifinals before beating James Blake of the United States for third place.

At London in 2012, he carried Serbia’s flag at the opening ceremony but was again a semifinal loser at the hands of Andy Murray.

He was defeated by Juan Martin del Potro in the bronze medal match. 

Del Potro also beat him in the first round in Rio four years later.

Djokovic’s announcement on Thursday came just four days after he had cast doubt on his participation at the Games.

Having defeated Matteo Berrettini for a sixth Wimbledon title and 20th career Grand Slam crown on Sunday, Djokovic admitted he had cooled on making the trip, saying it was only “50/50” if he would participate.

“As I said, my plan was always to go to the Olympic Games. But right now I’m a little bit divided. It’s kind of 50/50 because of what I heard in the last couple of days,” said Djokovic.

The Serb had always insisted he would think twice if the COVID-19 protocols in Japan became too strict and if fans were banned.

All venues at the Games, which start on July 23, will be closed to spectators as the Japanese authorities look to limit the risks of COVID-19.

Foreign visitors have been barred as have family members of visiting athletes.

“That was really disappointing to hear. I also hear that there’s going to be a lot of restrictions within the Village,” said Djokovic.

“I can’t even have my stringer that is a very important part of my team. I’m limited with the amount of people I can take in my team as well. I’ll have to think about it.”

The Olympics tennis event will also be missing Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber and Bianca Andreescu — all major winners — from the women’s tournament.

Other absentees from the men’s side include British No. 1 Dan Evans, Australian crowd pleaser Nick Kyrgios, David Goffin of Belgium and Canadian duo Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil.

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