Novak Djokovic moved one step closer to a historic Golden Slam on Wednesday, advancing into the Tokyo 2020 men's singles quarter-finals as other competitors struggled in hot and humid conditions.
French Open finalists Stefanos Tsitsipas and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova bowed out, while world number two Daniil Medvedev struggled to breathe during his 6-2 3-6 6-2 third round win over Italian Fabio Fognini.
Medvedev, competing for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team, was leading 5-2 in the first set when he requested a medical timeout.
“Even from the first set, I didn’t feel good enough with my breathing,” said the 25-year-old, who will next meet Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
“That’s why I called the physio, I felt like my diaphragm was blocked.”
Djokovic, who took to the court later in the afternoon, had a comparatively easier time, with a comfortable 6-3 6-1 win over Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
The 34-year-old Serbian, who is aiming to become the first man to win all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold in the same calendar year, will next play Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who moved past Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 7-6(7) 6-0.
Nishikori, who won the bronze medal at the Rio Games in 2016, is the host country’s last remaining hope for a singles medal after women’s number two Naomi Osaka lost in a third round upset on Tuesday.
Greece’s Tsitsipas was unable to recover after taking a nasty tumble during a second set tiebreak against Frenchman Ugo Humbert, losing 2-6 7-6(4) 6-2.
The 22-year-old, who reached the men’s final at Roland Garros before losing to Djokovic, will compete in the mixed doubles with Maria Sakkari later on Wednesday.
In the women’s singles, Pavlyuchenkova of the ROC was beaten 6-0 3-6 6-3 in the quarter-finals by Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic, who will face Kazakh Elena Rybakina for a spot in the gold medal match.
Ukraine’s world number six Elina Svitolina, the fourth and highest surviving seed in the women’s singles draw, also advanced with a 6-4 6-4 win over an error-prone Camila Giorgi of Italy.
Newly-wed Svitolina, watched by husband and French tennis star Gael Monfils, said she felt no extra pressure after top seeds Ash Barty, Osaka, and Aryna Sabalenka crashed out.
“You know when you are higher ranked everyone wants to beat you and everyone is extremely motivated to beat you,” she said.
“...I just try to focus on my game and not think so much about what’s going on in the other side of the net.”
She next plays Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who advanced after her Spanish opponent Paula Badosa retired due to heatstroke.
Badosa also withdrew from her mixed doubles contest with partner Carreno Busta.
In the men’s doubles quarter-finals, Britain’s Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury lost to Croatians Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig 4-6 7-6(2) (10-7) in a supertiebreaker.
The 34-year-old Murray arrived in Tokyo looking for a hat-trick of gold medals at the Games but had to pull out before his men’s singles opener against Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime due to a thigh strain.
He instead opted to compete in the men’s doubles with Salisbury but went down in the quarter-finals with the Croats edging the British pair 4-6 7-6(2) (10-7).
Murray, who would be 37 by the time the next Olympic Games is held in Paris in 2024, was unsure what lay ahead.
“I don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity to play again,” said Murray, who also won silver in mixed doubles at his home Games in 2012.
“I love every minute of playing the Olympics. I wish that today would have gone differently. I had another chance with Joe to win a medal. We were so close and that is just disappointing.
“There was some stuff I wish I could have done at the end of the match to try and help out more. But yeah, very disappointing.”
The three-times Grand Slam champion has dropped out of the top-100 in the world after struggling to overcome injuries over the last two years.
He underwent hip surgery in 2018 and 2019, and missed the Australian Open this year after contracting Covid-19.
“It is just hard. I hate losing,” Murray said, adding that he did not regret his decision to prioritise playing doubles over singles in Tokyo.
“I wanted to try and win a medal with Joe. You have regrets and think about points and stuff, things you should have done differently. I have always loved team sports.”
Katie Ledecky collected the sixth Olympic gold medal of her career but the American insisted she does not need any sympathy after being beaten again by Ariarne Titmus earlier on Wednesday.
After finishing runner-up to the Australian in the women’s 400 metres freestyle final earlier this week, Ledecky was aiming to hang on to her 200m title and win the 1500m showpiece at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
However, she was a distant fifth in the shorter race, 1.71 seconds adrift of Titmus, who claimed victory in an Olympic record time of one minute 53.50 seconds after a thunderous finish, having been fourth at halfway.
Ledecky rebounded in the inaugural women’s 1500m and a time of 15 mins and 37.34 secs saw her add to her Olympic gold collection as she finished more than four seconds head of compatriot and silver medallist Erica Sullivan.
Ledecky was in contemplative mood afterwards. While she cherishes taking her tally to half a dozen Olympic golds, the 24-year-old reflected that winning is not the be-all and end-all for her.
“I’ve gone to children’s hospitals and met wounded warriors and their faces light up when up when they see the gold medal, that means more to me than anything — the ability to put a smile on someone’s face,” she said.
“I just really wanted to get a gold medal to get that opportunity again. But I kind of laugh when I see things like ‘settles for silver’ because there are so many Olympians who won silver or bronze who are really happy with that.
“They are deserving of a lot of praise. Just because I’ve won golds all the time leading into that, it doesn’t mean that the silver doesn’t mean something to me.
“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or feel like silver or any other medal besides gold is a disappointment or anything. I would much rather people be concerned about people who are truly struggling in life.
“We don’t get this kind of attention and support every year so I do truly appreciate the concern and the support and interest in our sport and I guess I just hope people can pour that energy into other things as well.”
Ledecky won three individual women’s freestyle titles at Rio 2016 — 200m, 400m and 800m. She will be looking to keep one of those in possession and she could come up against Titmus over the 800m distance later this week.
Tom Dean has become the first British male swimmer in 113 years to win two golds at a single Olympic Games after he and his teammates triumphed in the 4x200m freestyle relay.
The 21-year-old, along with James Guy, 25, Matthew Richards, 18, and Duncan Scott, 24, clocked a time of six minutes and 58.58 seconds — 0.03 seconds off a world record time.
They saw off the Russian Olympic Committee and Australia to secure Team GB’s third swimming gold of Tokyo 2020.
It came after Dean, who had a second bout of coronavirus six months ago, won the men’s 200m freestyle 24 hours earlier, beating teammate Scott by 0.04 seconds.
Dean’s gold medal and Scott’s silver meant it was the first time since 1908 that two British male swimmers had stood on the podium.
Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from Thursday's women's all-around final, USA Gymnastics has confirmed.
The 24-year-old pulled out after one rotation of the women’s team final on Tuesday in Tokyo, citing mental health concerns.
USA Gymnastics said Biles is yet to decide whether to withdraw from her four individual finals, which are scheduled to take place next week.
In a statement, USA Gymnastics said: “After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition.
“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritising her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”
Biles won four gold medals in Rio in 2016 and was aiming to become the first gymnast to retain a female all-around title at the Games since Vera Caslavska in 1968.