By Mike McIntyre
It was a crazy day for tennis at the Olympic Games in Rio on Saturday. With the opening ceremonies still fresh in everyone's mind, 62 tennis players saw themselves ousted from competition in either singles or doubles. For some like 36 year old Venus Williams, it was likely her last time competing in singles at the Olympics. For others, like 19 year old Borna Coric, they will likely still have several opportunities to win at the Olympic level. Here are the five matches that for one reason or another, grabbed our attention in the tennis world on the first day of action in Rio.
John Millman d Ricardas Berankis 6-0. 6-0
A much tighter contest would have been expected between the 71st ranked Berankis and the 75th ranked Millman in the first round of play. Instead, the Australian crushed the Olympic dreams of his Lithuanian opponent in a mere 50 minutes. When you only win 11% of points on your second serve, you know you're likely getting beat bad, but a double bagel is a tennis player's worst nightmare. Apparently this was the first time in Olympic tennis competition that such a scoreline has been delivered. You've got to be heartless to not feel any compassion for Berankis and the end result of his first ever Olympic Games.
Saisai Zheng d Aga Radwanska 6-4, 7-5
The fourth seeded Radwanska suffers her second consecutive first round exit from the Olympic Games. In 2012 it was Julia Goerges who beat her 7-5, 6-7, 6-4 in London. This time Radwanska could not even take the match to a deciding set. Radwanska had never before played the 64th ranked Zheng, but the ranking differential was misleading considering some of the Chinese player's results on the WTA Tour this year. Wins over Angelique Kerber, Genie Bouchard and Alize Cornet reveal some serious potential from the 22 year old. Zheng's win really opens up the draw in that section and offers Madison Keys an easier path to the quarterfinals.
Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic d Marin Cilic and Marin Draganja 6-2, 6-2
Perhaps the lopsided loss was because Marin Cilic had already played his singles match earlier in the day, or perhaps it was because he's ranked 197th in the world in doubles and his partner, Draganja, is ranked 136th (unranked in singles). Still the win must have been a welcome relief for Djokovic and Zimonjic who had not won a doubles match together since March of 2015. Djokovic will now be heavily tested in his opening singles match on Sunday where he will face the man who denied him a bronze medal four years ago in London - Juan Martin Del Potro.
Misaki Doi and Eri Hozumi d Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic 6-0, 0-6, 6-4
This match makes our top five not only because the second seeded doubles tandem from France was eliminated, but due to the Twitter rant that Mladenovic went on afterwards. In it, she blamed her loss on the French Tennis Federation for failing to advise her and Garcia that they needed to be dressed in matching attire. Garcia had to wear one of Mladenovic's outfits turned inside-out to hide the Adidas logo as she is sponsored by Nike. Citing the stress of the pre-match ordeal, Mladenovic refused to give her opponents any credit for the way they played. Sounds like a lot of sour grapes from the Frenchwoman and I'll be interested to see if the French Federation has any comment to make in the aftermath of this strange situation.
Kirsten Flipkens d Venus Williams 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5)
With four gold medals in previous Olympic Games (one in singles and three in doubles) Venus Williams has had more than her share of success at the biggest international competition of them all. That success will not be continuing in singles this year as the fifth seeded American fell to the 62nd ranked Flipkens who used a variety of shots and tactics to throw Williams off her game. I watched Flipkens come back from a 0-6 deficit against Venus at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2013 to win that match 0-6, 6-4, 6-2 and knew that she had the ability to cause an upset today. Still, she was 1-2 in career head-to-head matches against the much higher ranked Williams and her reaction after the match proved the magnitude of this upset as she had tears of joy in her eyes and knelt down to kiss the Olympic logo on court.
With Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray all making their singles draw debut at the 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday, there will be plenty of excitement coming up on Day 2 in Rio. Stick with us as we examine the action each day and discuss the moments that stand out on (and perhaps off) the tennis court.