Naomi Osaka is feeling "a little bit refreshed and happy again" after returning to tennis with a convincing 6-1 6-4 triumph over Zheng Saisai in her Tokyo 2020 opener.

The four-time grand slam winner has not featured since the first round of the French Open two months ago where she abandoned her campaign following a warning she risked expulsion over her refusal to take part in news conferences during the tournament.

Osaka, who is the reigning US and Australian Open champion, then decided to skip Wimbledon after opening up on her battles with anxiety and depression.

The 23-year-old was granted the honour of lighting the flame for Tokyo 2020 on Friday and two days later made a successful return at the Ariake Tennis Park, where she represents one of Japan's greatest medal hopes for the Games.

"I feel like, more than anything, I'm just focused on playing tennis. This, playing the Olympics, has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, so I feel like the break I took was very needed," she said.

"But I feel definitely a little bit refreshed and happy again.

"I felt really nervous being in Japan and playing here for the first time in maybe two years, and for it to be my first Olympics. 

"It was definitely really nerve-wracking. But I am glad I was able to win, she is a very tough opponent.

"It's been a while since I played but I feel, more than anything, just happy to be out here. We are playing in a pandemic, and it is really tough for everyone."

Asked how she felt to be talking to the press again, she said: "For me, honestly I don't feel that weird about it.

"It might feel weird to you guys, but I don't know. I'm happy that I guess you guys are asking me questions but more than anything I was just focused on playing tennis and I guess I feel a little bit out of my body right now."

Osaka then revealed that her starring role in Friday's opening ceremony came about in March.

"I was super honoured," she said. That’s a position you dream about and not anyone can do it so when they asked me if I wanted to I was very surprised but very honoured and I'm just happy to be here and happy to play, especially in Tokyo."

The playing conditions have been a quite literal hot topic over the first two days, with the sweltering heats causing issues for players.

Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic were among those to speak out about the decision not to play matches later in the day Tokyo, where temperatures have regularly been above 30 degrees.

Osaka, though, has no such issues, adding: "It feels fine for me. I have played a couple of tournaments here, of course they resurfaced it since I was last here, but I love being here, and I actually really like the weather."

Ash Barty's chances of winning singles gold at Tokyo 2020 came to a juddering halt at the first hurdle as she suffered a shock 6-4 6-3 to Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo.

The world number one and recently crowned Wimbledon champion was among the favourites for glory in the women's event but put in an uncharacteristically error strewn display at the Ariake Tennis Park.

In total, the amiable Australian racked up a whopping 55 errors in a match that lasted a little over an hour and a half.

Sorribes Tormo had never faced off against Barty before but kept cool amid the stifling Tokyo conditions to progress to a second-round tie with Fiona Ferro of France.

It also marked the first time the 24-year-old had ever beaten a player ranked number one in the world.

Barty's Tokyo adventure is not over just yet, though. On Saturday she and childhood friend Storm Sanders made it through round one of the women's doubles with a 6-1 6-2 beating of Japanese Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya.

Naomi Osaka lighting the Olympic cauldron will have helped increase the exposure for the sport of tennis around the world, according to Novak Djokovic.

Osaka was given the honour of carrying the torch on the short final leg at the Japan National Stadium before walking the steps to light the flame and end the opening ceremony.

The four-time grand slam champion is the face of the Tokyo Games in her home country, creating extra pressure on her shoulders as she bids to strike gold.

Djokovic appreciates the absences of legendary names Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is a blow, but he believes Osaka's presence is crucial for tennis in the battle for media coverage at the Games.

"It cannot be better for our sport, you are representing yourself, your country but also your sport in the Olympic Games, you're trying to get the hype and the attention towards our sport as much as you possibly can, so we're all contributing to that in the Olympic Village," Djokovic said when asked about Osaka's role in Friday's ceremony.

"There's a lot of attention towards the tennis players which is great, from the other athletes which is very nice to see, very nice to experience.

"Obviously you don't have Roger or Rafa. They are big stars and legends of our sport, but still there's quite a lot of great athletes, top players. Naomi is a home favourite and a lot of eyes are on her.

"Being at home playing is a lot of pressure, but it's great for our sport just in general to see that there's a lot of attention towards it."

 

Djokovic was speaking after overcoming Hugo Dellien with ease in his opening outing in the men's singles tournament, the Serbian triumphing 6-2 6-2 in just over an hour.

The quick win allowed the recently crowned Wimbledon champion to avoid staying out for too long in the Tokyo heat, an issue that led to Daniil Medvedev calling for matches to be pushed back to later in the day, allowing players to compete during the evenings when the temperatures have dropped.

"I agree with him 100 per cent," Djokovic said of Medvedev's suggestion. "I actually asked as well.

"My team captain, Viktor Troicki, was speaking to the referee a couple of times. To be honest, I don't understand why they don't start matches at say 3pm.

"I've heard for tennis there is some kind of curfew they have to finish at midnight, but if that's the case, I've just finished the last match and it's not even 5pm, we still have seven hours to play. 

"They have lights on all the courts, they're going to make life much easier for all of us tennis players, I just don't understand why they don't move it. 

"It's actually for the television broadcasters even better, because the later you play, the better it is for the United States and the time zones in Europe.

"I don't know, maybe the ITF (International Tennis Federation) can give you a better answer to why they chose to be played in the middle of the day. I doubt they will change the decision, but we're hoping that they will."

Iga Swiatek says adjusting to the tricky Tokyo conditions will be key to winning gold after she came through her Olympics opener on Saturday.

The Polish athlete was the highest-ranked seed in action in the women's singles in the Japanese capital and comfortably dispatched of Mona Barthel 6-2 6-2.

World number one Ash Barty gets her individual campaign underway on Sunday but the Wimbledon champion was a doubles victor on the first day of action on the tennis courts.

SWIATEK OUT TO ADJUST

Swiatek was on court for a little over an hour, breaking serve six times and firing down 13 winners to Barthel's eight.

The tough hot and humid conditions were a big talking point at Ariake Tennis Centre on Saturday, and Swiatek – whose father represented Poland as a rower at the 1988 Olympics – had her say.

"I'm pretty happy that I'm into the second round and for sure not only the temperature was hard, but also the sun because on one side it was pretty hard to serve," she said. 

"But we had to adjust quickly and change our toss, so that was hard, but you know I would say the players who can adjust quicker are going to be the best ones here."

KREJCIKOVA BENEFITS FROM DIYAS RETIREMENT

Eighth seed Barbora Krejcikova was 5-2 up against Zarina Diyas before her opponent had to withdraw with an ankle problem.

The Czech now meets Leylah Annie Fernandez in the second round. Fellow seeds Belinda Bencic (9), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (13), Maria Sakkari (14) and Elena Rybakina (15) all made it through round one.

But Kiki Bertens, the 16th seed, was sent packing 6-4 3-6 6-4 by Marketa Vondrousova.

BARTY REVELS IN TEAMING UP WITH CHILDHOOD FRIEND

Barty is fresh off her triumph at SW19 earlier this month, and the amiable Aussie started her Olympics adventure alongside long-time friend Storm Sanders.

The sixth feeds hammered home pair Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-1 6-2.

"Playing with my childhood friend in what is a dream for both of us is really cool. And to be here in some of the most unique circumstances I think ever for an Olympic Games, it's really awesome for us," Barty said.

"We're very grateful and thankful that we're able to be here to play and to experience what is really cool Games."

Naomi Osaka will make her playing entry to the Olympic Games a day later than expected after her first-round tennis match was put back to Sunday.

Japan's big hope for gold will play China's Zheng Saisai in her opener at the Ariake Tennis Park.

The match was billed to be first on the centre court at 11:00 local time on Saturday, only for Games organisers to announce it has been moved back by a day.

The move came amid mounting expectation that Osaka would have a prominent role to play in Friday's opening ceremony, meaning she would have little time to rest between taking part in that event and playing Zheng.

Osaka abandoned her French Open campaign after one match, having been warned she risked expulsion for refusing to take part in news conferences during the tournament.

The reigning US Open and Australian Open champion, who has spoken of struggling with anxiety and depression, then elected to skip Wimbledon.

Ash Barty and home favourite Naomi Osaka start their respective quests for Olympic gold against Sara Sorribes Tormo and Zheng Saisai, while Novak Djokovic opens against Hugo Dellien.

In a stacked women's draw, world number one and Wimbledon champion Barty has a tough opening assignment and could face French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 13th seed, as early as round three.

Spectators may not be in attendance at Tokyo venues for the Olympics but Japanese fans will be rooting for Osaka, who returns to action after a two-month hiatus with the four-time grand slam winner having spoken openly about mental health and anxiety issues.

Viktorija Golubic or Maria Camila Osorio Serrano would await Osaka if she can get through round one, but a dream final with Barty is no shoo-in given 15 of the world's top 20 on the WTA Tour are in action including each of the nine leading the race for the 2021 WTA Finals.

Aryna Sabalenka (3), Elina Svitolina (4), Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova (5), Iga Swiatek (6) and Garbine Muguruza are all featuring in Tokyo.

 

The men's side has been hit by a spate of withdrawals, with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem among those not playing in the Japanese capital.

The main talking point surrounds whether the all-conquering Djokovic can continue his march towards a calendar Golden Slam – a sweep of all four majors and an Olympic gold in the same year.

Any notion of a free ride for the Serbian is wide of the mark, though. His side of the draw could see him come up against Andrey Rublev (5), Alexander Zverev (4) and Hubert Hurkacz (7), while Stefano Tsitsipas (3) – beaten by Djokovic in the French Open final – and Daniil Medvedev (2) are among the potential final opponents.

Andy Murray, gold medal winner in 2012 and 2016, faces Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime in a tricky first-round match.

Novak Djokovic has leapt from one bubble into another as he attempts to become the first man in tennis history to win all four grand slams and Olympic gold in the same year.

The only men to have won each of the singles majors across their careers, plus Olympic gold, are Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal, and now Djokovic aims to move to the brink of winning all five in his remarkable 2021 season.

Fresh from dominating at Wimbledon, and with the Australian and French Open titles already in the bag, Djokovic heads into the Tokyo Games as a red-hot favourite, seeking to set himself up to complete a historic campaign at the US Open.

Naomi Osaka will enter the Games with almost as much expectation behind her too, the reigning US Open and Australian Open champion eyeing glory for hosts Japan.

But tennis has thrown up a host of shock results in its short Olympic history. Here, Stats Perform looks at the sport's place in the Games.

 

WHO'S IN, WHO'S OUT, AND WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have all opted out of the Olympics.

Williams made her mind up prior to suffering a leg injury at Wimbledon, although she is already a member of the career Golden Slam club.

Federer reached his decision after revealing he also suffered a physical setback at the All England Club, and Nadal elected to take a two-month break after relinquishing his French Open title.

Don't expect to see them again at the Olympics, given Williams and Federer will be pushing 43 by Paris 2024, and Nadal will be 38. Federer won a doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka in 2008, but his singles peak was the silver medal he earned in 2012, Andy Murray crushing Swiss hopes in the final at Wimbledon.

Dominic Thiem, Bianca Andreescu, Nick Kyrgios, Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Victoria Azarenka and Denis Shapovalov are among other confirmed absentees, with fitness issues a factor for some, less so for others.

The COVID-19 crisis is a mitigating factor in why so many stars are staying away, and directly responsible in the case of some players, such as Britain's Johanna Konta and Dan Evans, who both tested positive recently.

But tennis was only fully restored to the Olympic programme in 1988, after being dropped post 1924, and if players are seen to be favouring the grand slams over the Games, that is not such a great look for the sport.

At a time when the International Olympic Committee has shown it is willing to shake up the sports on its programme, tennis could perhaps do with a headline-making Tokyo 2020.

Murray, the two-time defending men's champion, will target an improbable hat-trick. A hat-trick for the injury-hit former world number one would be a sensation, and Osaka landing gold in the women's tournament would surely be one of the great moments of the Games.

 

DJOKOVIC FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GRAF

When Steffi Graf beat Gabriela Sabatini in the women's singles final at Seoul, it completed what we know now as the calendar 'Golden Slam'. She had already won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, and the feat of the then 19-year-old West German has yet to be repeated.

Now Djokovic is three-fifths of the way to a similar clean sweep of the majors and the Olympics, with the US Open getting under way on August 30 in New York.

He teetered on not going to Tokyo, and perhaps he is to some extent endangering his chances at Flushing Meadows by spending more time travelling and enduring bubble life, while others rest up.

But Djokovic is a fiercely proud Serbian and could not resist a great chance of winning gold for his country. He landed bronze at the 2008 Games in Beijing but in 2012 he lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the bronze-medal match, and a cruel draw at Rio four years later saw him assigned Del Potro in the first round.

Top seed Djokovic bowed out in two tie-breaks to the powerful Argentinian, describing the outcome as "one of the toughest losses in my career".

There is no danger of a hat-trick of defeats to Del Potro, which may help Djokovic. Del Potro has been battling for two years to get back to fitness, undergoing four rounds of right knee surgery in a bid to get back on tour.

 

RAISING THE BAR AT THE OLYMPICS

How the Olympic village functions in Tokyo will be distinctly different to at previous Games, given the pandemic restrictions in place that could be a real buzzkill.

But in the past there have been countless cases of athletes becoming inspired by their surroundings and going on to perform above their usual level.

It can be a party village, and it can also be an eyebrow-raising experience as global superstars rub shoulders with competitors who might struggle for recognition in their home towns. More than anything, the shared team experience, fighting for a collective cause, can make a middling athlete believe they can be great.

Monica Puig was a massive tennis outsider in 2016 but the then world number 34 won the women's singles, stunning Angelique Kerber in the final after beating Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza en route. That gave Puerto Rico their first ever Olympic gold medal.

In 1992, a tournament that featured the likes of Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker finished with a staggering final match-up of Marc Rosset versus Jordi Arrese, who in his home city of Barcelona was edged out 8-6 in the fifth set by the Swiss world number 43. Nobody would have predicted that head to head for gold.

Similarly, at Athens 2004, Nicolas Massu beat Mardy Fish in the gold medal match of a tournament that featured Federer, Andy Roddick, Carlos Moya and Tim Henman.

In the 1996 Atlanta Games, Lindsay Davenport, who had just turned 20, took inspiration from being the daughter of an Olympian, with dad Wink having played volleyball for the United States at Mexico City in 1968.

Davenport was beginning to make an impact on the WTA Tour but was only the ninth seed at the Olympics, yet she swept through the rounds before sinking Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 in the final.

"It's like one of those things I look back on and I'm like, 'Was that me?'," Davenport told The Tennis Podcast last year.

"It doesn't seem like it was real. I'd made the transition to the pro tour pretty well, but I liked hanging out between eight and 16 in the rankings. I was very insecure, unsure of what could I do. I liked doing well but I wasn't sure I wanted to do too well because it seemed really overwhelming to be one of those top players.

"Here I go at 20 years old to Atlanta for two or three weeks, in a setting that seemed so comfortable. Look at all these athletes, you have all different shapes and sizes, you have players that are really working hard but have so much in common and you get to hang out with them, breakfast, lunch, dinner in the village."

Davenport was a future world number one and three-time grand slam singles champion, but at this point in her career being an American at an Olympics in the United States was just a thrill.

"You're sharing this with your team-mates who are some of my best friends in Mary Joe Fernandez, Monica Seles. It was the best time ever," she said.

"By the time the tournament actually started we were like, 'Yeah, I'll go play my match and then we'll go back to the village and we'll hang out', and everything went so fast in those few weeks.

"And there I was left standing, winning at the end because I was so incredibly happy and excited with everything that was going on. I kind of forgot what was my job.

"When it became a reality of even just making the team in '96, it was so huge also for my family with having a second generation Olympian."

Wimbledon champion Ash Barty has "a great chance" of securing Olympic glory for Australia in Tokyo.

That is the view of former Wimbledon winner Pat Cash, though he warned there is plenty of scope for upsets in both the men's and women's singles.

Monica Puig claimed a surprise victory at Rio 2016 - then ranked 34th, she stunned Angelique Kerber in the final after beating Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza en route to give Puerto Rico their first-ever gold medal.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic are two greats on the men's side who have not tasted Olympic glory, something the Serbian will look to put right this year as he pursues a Golden Slam.

Cash, though, would not be surprised to see the Olympics throw up another surprise result, even though he hopes to see compatriot Barty come out on top in the women's tournament.

He told Stats Perform: "The women's draw is very, very even. If you don't play well in one of those matches, you're out. 

"There's no such thing as an easy first round really in a tournament such as the Olympics, particularly the men’s side where it's best of three sets. So if you slip up, you're gone. 

"There's no chance of coming back from two sets to one down, because it's over. So that's trickier for somebody like Djokovic who can typically run people into the ground.

"Ash has got a great chance of winning the Olympics, but I think probably there's 30 girls who think they can do that as well and they're probably right. 

"We've seen some unusual results in the Olympics and shorter form tournaments like that, also on the men's side.

"It's very hard to say, but obviously, [Barty] is in great form and full of confidence - that goes a long way to winning a gold medal."

 

There have been a host of high-profile withdrawals from the tennis in Tokyo.

Rafael Nadal, Federer, Dominic Thiem, Matteo Berrettini, Serena Williams, Sofia Kenin, Simona Halep and Coco Gauff among a large list of top players who will be missing.

Some absences were unavoidable due to injuries or positive coronavirus cases but some players have opted to rest amid a hectic calendar, avoiding Japan's strict COVID-19 rules in the process.

Cash has mixed views on the subject but does feel playing at the Olympics should be seen as a rare and valuable opportunity.

"I think I think they would [look back fondly at winning a medal]," said Cash.

"It’s certainly one of the regrets in my career that I didn't play the Olympics [in 1988]. I had a niggling injury and decided to rest. 

"Looking back, I thought I could have won a medal, maybe even a gold medal. I would have probably given it a really good shot. 

"In my era it wasn't the pinnacle. I think Novak Djokovic has talked about that now, he said, ‘The main thing for me is winning slams, they're the pinnacle of our game’. 

"But to win a gold medal, it's pretty cool. You'll find that the players who do win a gold medal, if you tell the grandkids, 'I won a Wimbledon trophy' or 'I won a gold medal', they’ll go, 'Oh, where’s the gold medal?'

"Having said that, there's a lot of players who aren't playing the Olympics this year. Certainly for a few years, it was a novelty - I'm not sure if it's wearing off or not. 

"But to perform for your country, I think is an honour and we haven't had the opportunity to do that much in the last couple of years. 

"With the Davis Cup, the men's competition is really just a fading, unfortunately, dying competition, which not many people really care about any more.

"That's very, very sad, so the Olympics is often the best opportunity to represent your country."

 

Cash delved deeper into the dilemma players are likely to have faced.

"I wouldn't put any criticism on anybody for the personal choice after these last 18 months," he said. "It's their choice, everybody's got a different journey in this and it's part of their careers. 

"With COVID and all that sort of stuff that's going on - the bubbles - some of the stresses are unknown like being away from family and friends for months on end and not actually have any break. 

"Everybody's got their own different stories, some of them are injured, some were coming back from injury, some think 'I'm not going to make a trip to Japan' - with all the restrictions it's not going be fun. 

"It's not going to be a fun Games where you can go there and watch the other athletes. In Los Angeles [the 1984 Games] the highlight was actually to go and watch the track events, which I did.

"That's not going to happen, you're in a hotel, you're in the village or, you're gonna go straight to the tennis and back only to a certain area of the village, I think it's going to be locked down for tennis players only. 

"You may not be able to mingle with the other athletes. So I think a lot of the fun has been taken out of this. 

"But again, it's representing your country and trying to get trying to get a gold medal. So some players will go to great lengths to do that."

Naomi Osaka is less likely to claim Olympics glory on home soil in Tokyo because her lack of match practice will be a disadvantage, according to Pat Cash.

Japan's Osaka has not played since withdrawing from the French Open after one match at the end of May, having revealed she would skip press conferences as "people have no regard for athletes' mental health".

Prior to taking a break from the sport, four-time grand slam champion Osaka revealed she had suffered "long bouts of depression" since winning the US Open in 2018.

The 23-year-old said this month she wants "some level of privacy and empathy" from the media when she returns to action and but also discussed her excitement at playing in a "dream" Olympics.

Former Wimbledon champion Cash insists Osaka has the game to triumph but feels it is a tougher task now given her main opponents are coming off two grand slams in quick succession.

"Yeah, she said [she was taking] time out – it's hard to know if she's going to be match hardened," Cash said to Stats Perform.

"I think that's the thing about playing Wimbledon, the grass court season. Are you match toughened? 

"That goes a huge, huge way [to achieving success, and not having that] is putting yourself under pressure and especially under those circumstances if it's for a gold medal."

 

Cash feels the quality and depth of opposition in the women's draw is another obstacle in Osaka's bid for gold.

Wimbledon winner Ash Barty, beaten finalist Karolina Pliskova, former French Open champion Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka are scheduled to be among the highest-ranked competitors for Osaka at the Olympics.

Cash added: "There are a lot of good players too. Going back onto the hard court, I think that favours certain players who hit the ball hard like Sabalenka for instance.

"But there's 30 girls who really do think they can win a gold medal there and I think that's true. 

"So it's very hard to predict who will win, obviously Japan want Osaka to win, but with her being out, I think it's less likely than in a normal circumstance where she's playing matches. 

"But she's such a talent that she really could come out there and blast players away, so I wouldn't put it past her."

Yulia Putintseva was in devastating form as she crushed Anhelina Kalinina to win the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, her second career singles title.

She needed just 70 minutes to thrash Kalinina 6-4 6-0 and seal a first WTA Tour triumph since 2019 when she was victorious in Nurnberg.

In fact, her semi-final appearance in Budapest was Putintseva's first since that success in Germany, and she rarely looked like passing up the chance for victory against her Ukrainian opponent.

Kalinina was as much her own worst enemy at times, with 34 unforced errors continuously handing the initiative to the ruthless Putintseva, who converted five of eight break points.

Two of those breaks came in the first three games of the match, and although Kalinina hit back initially, she could not sustain that form as Putintseva closed out the set.

The second set was far more one-sided, as Kalinina took just seven points across the six games, which were all won by Putintseva.

The Kazakh now turns her attention towards the Olympics.

Tamara Zidansek recovered from a set and early break down to beat Clara Burel and win her first WTA singles title at the Ladies Open Lausanne.

The Slovenian had lost her previous two finals, including at the Copa Colsanitas in April, but she lived up to her top-seed billing on Sunday by beating Burel 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-1.

Burel had eliminated second and fifth seeds Fiona Ferro and Caroline Garcia en route to her first final and made a fast start by breaking Zidansek twice in the first three games.

Former junior world number one Burel was in control at 4-0 up and saw the job through in the first set, despite Zidansek pulling it back to 5-4 at one point, with a backhand winner.

Zidansek was a break down in the second set when beginning her impressive comeback, which saw the French Open semi-finalist take four of the next five games.

But Burel continued to match her opponent as the second set went to a tie-break, with Zidansek recovering from 4-2 down to take it 7-5 and level up the contest.

World number 50 Zidansek took control from that point and eased to victory in the third set with three breaks, clinching her maiden title when Burel miscued a backhand.

 

Barbora Krejcikova won the Prague Open on Sunday with a comfortable win in straight sets against Tereza Martincova.

World number 13 and tournament second seed Krejcikova eased to a 6-2 6-0 win over her Czech compatriot Martincova in one hour and five minutes.

The win was the French Open champion Krejcikova's first on hard courts and came courtesy of 26 winners across the 14 games.

At 2-2 in the first set Krejcikova secured a break against the world number 78 and from that point never looked back.

Krejcikova has now chalked up an impressive 20 wins from her last 21 matches.

The 25-year-old's solitary loss in that time was in the fourth round of Wimbledon at the hands of eventual champion, and world number one, Ashleigh Barty.

 

Angelique Kerber will not be going for gold for Germany at the Tokyo Olympics, with the three-time grand slam winner withdrawing on Thursday.

One week on from losing to Ash Barty in the Wimbledon semi-finals, Kerber said it was "disappointing" to pull out of the Games.

The former Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion said in a statement: "The thought of participating at the Olympics has been a constant motivation for me over the past months to push further and keep believing in my goals.

"Representing Germany in London 2012 and Rio 2016 as part of the German team has always been one of my favourite memories of my career so far.

"This makes it even more disappointing for me to accept the fact that my body needs rest after the intense few weeks that lie behind me and that I have to recover first before returning to competition later this summer!

"Thank you for your support, as this has been a very difficult decision for me. Good luck to all my fellow German athletes in Tokyo #TeamDeutschland, I will miss you."

 

Kerber reached the Olympic final in Rio in 2016 but suffered a shock defeat in the title match to Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, having to settle for the silver medal.

Her absence this year means the field is further depleted, with Serena Williams, Bianca Andreescu, Simona Halep and Sofia Kenin among the high-profile WTA Tour stars who will be absent in Japan. Puig will also miss out after undergoing shoulder surgery.

The men's line-up has been similarly hit, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem choosing not to play.

French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova made light work of qualifier Isabella Shinikova to start her Prague Open campaign with a win.

Following her triumph in Paris, Krejcikova made it to the round of 16 at Wimbledon only to lose to eventual champion Ash Barty.

Krejcikova will be representing the Czech Republic at the Tokyo Olympics, and is using this home tournament as a warm-up event.

The second seed defeated Shinikova 6-2 6-3 to tee up a second-round tie with Ysaline Bonaventure. With Petra Kvitova already out, Krejcikova will be hoping to seal a third singles title of her career.

Compatriot and fourth seed Marie Bouzkova did not fare well, however, as the fourth seed slumped 3-6 6-4 6-2 to world number 141 Storm Sanders.

Fellow Czechs Katerina Siniakova and Tereza Martincova did progress, beating Jodie Burrage and Samantha Murray Sharan respectively.

While Krejcikova will look to take advantage of a weakened field and prepare for the Olympics in ideal fashion, one player who will not be at the Games is Johanna Konta.

The British number one said on Tuesday she had withdrawn from Tokyo 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19 and seeing her tennis fitness suffer, having also had to pull out of Wimbledon. Konta, who is not in action this week, described the blow as "a heart-breaking reality".

At the Hungarian Grand Prix, third seed Bernarda Pera had to come from behind to beat Julia Grabher – ranked at 201 – 5-7 6-1 6-2.

Pera, who joins a fellow American seed, Danielle Collins, in round two, will next face Anhelina Kalinina.

Irina-Camelia Begu, a finalist in Budapest 10 years ago, will not be making a repeat trip to the title match, the fourth seed losing 6-3 6-4 on Tuesday to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Meanwhile, at the Lausanne Open, fourth seed Camila Giorgi scored a ruthless 6-2 6-0 win over Norway's Ulrikke Eikeri.

The rise of Ash Barty to become a double grand slam champion has been "phenomenal", with her mental strength key to that major glory.

That is the opinion of former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, who watched with delight as Barty triumphed in the 2021 tournament at the All England Club with a three-set win over Karolina Pliskova in the final.

Barty sealed victory at Wimbledon just a month after withdrawing from the French Open with injury, becoming the first Australian woman to win the title since her idol Evonne Goolagong in 1980.

Cash and Lleyton Hewitt are the only Australians to have won the crown in the intervening period.

The 1987 winner Cash feels Barty – who won her first major at Roland Garros in 2019 – has the perfect blend of talent and fight which led to the country's latest success.

"I've got to know Ash and her team pretty well over the years," Cash told Stats Perform.

"I was coaching [CoCo Vandeweghe] who partnered with Ash to win her first grand slam title [in the doubles] at the US Open in 2016, so we did spend a lot of time together. 

"I saw her improving all the time, but for her to take this extra step in the last couple of years, it's been quite phenomenal. 

"The improvement in her game, her confidence and obviously [her play] under pressure, which is where it all matters, it's been exceptional. 

"Nothing's always perfect, of course, but she worked her way through the tournament after starting off in pretty average form – I think she would admit that herself.

"And she ended up playing fantastically well in the last two matches when it really counts."

Barty is calm, serious and focused – traits Cash thinks show up when she reaches pressure points in her matches.

"There's always moments if you're going to be a tennis player you’ve got to be prepared for really sticky, tricky moments if you're going to be one of the best players in the world," added Cash.

"They come up every set, every match you play out there. They're sticky moments and even on the practice courts when you're doing practice matches.

"But she is a great competitor. She's been a good Junior, been a Junior Wimbledon champion.

"She gives a lot of credit to her team, and I would too, but she's got she got to do the hard work out there and deal with the pressure and, and she did exceptionally well considering it all.

"In many ways, she just she is a quiet person and very happy to rest up and do her own thing, but she is incredibly well spoken now - very endearing where everybody loves her and loves her personality."

Cash felt world number one Barty achieved Wimbledon success at a time when it is more difficult than ever to come through a tough spell, battling injuries and struggling for match practice amid coronavirus restrictions.

"Injuries are always a concern for any player on tour," he said. "The tour is pretty relentless, especially these days where there's no real opportunity to have time off.

"You're sort of in bubbles, you can't go out and have a rest and get to a restaurant or have a few days away from the tour. 

"You're constantly going from one bubble to the next bubble and seeing the same people and they're your opponents! So it's not easy – there [are challenges for players with] mental wellbeing and physical issues and of course it is a highly competitive sport.

"So she's negotiated that quite well since these niggling injuries that happened.

"I think the French Open obviously was a bigger concern with the leg. She didn't play any pre-Wimbledon events and therefore, the first couple of rounds are always dangerous. 

"But she negotiated those quite well and bit by bit by bit built on her form. And by the end, she was moving incredibly well, getting around the court. 

"That was the real difference between the two players in the finals, that Ash was just a better mover on the grass courts."

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