By Mike McIntyre
If tennis fans thought that day one was exciting at the Olympic Tennis event on Saturday, they must have been absolutely blown away by the shocking results from day two on Sunday. Here are some of the key matches - including the stunning upset of a certain Serbian World No. 1.
Juan Martin Del Potro d Novak Djokovic 7-6(4), 7-6(2)
When the singles draw was released everyone in the tennis world locked eyes on the match between the World No. 1 Djokovic and the often injured Del Potro. The pair faced-off in the 2012 London Olympic Games with the Argentinian denying Djokovic a bronze medal. While Djokovic enjoyed an 11-3 head-to-head advantage coming into the match, the pair had not faced each other since 2013. Now ranked a lowly 141st in the ATP World Tour rankings due to ongoing injury struggles, Del Potro should be top 20, likely even top 10 if healthy and playing consistently. This was an epic battle that unfortunately could not be saved for later in the draw. On Sunday, Del Potro's forehand was lethal and he played with the confidence of a champion. His win makes it very difficult to assess where Djokovic's game is at the moment. A third round loss at Wimbledon followed by a tournament victory at the Rogers Cup in Toronto and now an opening round loss at the Olympics provide Novak with a real up and down summer so far. He walked off the court Sunday night with tears flowing freely to indicate just how much the Olympics meant to him. It will be very interesting to see how he bounces back in Cincinnati and at the U.S. Open later this summer. As for Del Potro, it sure looks like a trip to the semi-finals is a realistic prospect with how he just broke the draw wide open.
Thomasz Bellucci and Andre Sa d Andy Murray and Jamie Murray 7-6(6), 7-6(14)
Djokovic's loss clearly makes Andy Murray the favorite to win Olympic Gold in singles and I'm sure the folks at Bet Bind would agree on that one. In doubles however the second seeded Murray brothers surprisingly went out in the first round to Brazilians Bellucci and Sa. While Andy is not a doubles player of the same calibre of Jamie, it is a surprise that he and his brother have struggled so much as partners in the Olympic Games. They lost in the first round in London in 2012 and in the second round in Beijing back in 2008. Andy had not played a doubles match since April and had only teamed up once with his brother in 2016, back in February in Davis Cup play against Japan. The lack of practice together and overall absence of any real doubles preparation made the Murray brothers an overrated second seed in the draw, but a first round exit is clearly a disappointment. Andy is still alive in singles of course and Jamie will undoubtedly get another crack in doubles where I expect he will be playing in the mixed draw.
Rafael Nadal d Federico Delbonis 6-2, 6-1
Back in action for the first time since the French Open in May, Rafael Nadal wasted little time with his thrashing of Federico Delbonis. Having won their two previous career encounters, it was not a surprise that Nadal won. That being said, I'm not sure I expected such a run-away scoreline after two and a half months away from competition. The scary thing is that Nadal admitted after the match that he was still not playing at full capacity. “If there is not Olympic Games I will not be here competing, because the wrist needs a little bit more time to be 100 per cent recovered.” Hopefully he is not doing further damage to it by playing in Rio. Nadal gets Andreas Seppi from Italy in his next match whom he leads 6-1 in previous matches played.
Barbora Strycova and Lucie Safarova d Serena Williams and Venus Williams 6-3, 6-4
In three previous Olympic Games together, the Williams sisters had three gold medals to show for it. They won't be adding to that total in Rio after a straight set loss at the hands of the Czech Republic. Venus had been dealing with a virus that hindered her during her singles loss on Saturday to Kirsten Flipkens and that was no-doubt still holding her back from playing at 100% in doubles with her sister. Only Serena commented to the press after the loss and said, “I wouldn't say it's devastating. We had a chance to compete for our country and we did the best that we can. We had a blast out there. It was a lot of fun and we'll always remember these moments and these matches, and I think that's what matters most. We've had so many Olympic doubles golds, so many grand slam championships. It's been unbelievable." Unbelievable is exactly the word I would use to describe their opening round flop.
Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil d Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(6)
Gotta mention some Canadian content here and that falls on the doubles duo of Nestor and Pospisil who represent Canada's best chance at a medal in Olympic tennis in Rio. The Canucks were surprisingly tested by the duo of Daniell and Venus from New Zealand and pushed to a third set tiebreak to win the match. With the Murray brothers ousted, Nestor and Pospisil have a good draw and an excellent shot at a medal if they play up to their potential together. As we have seen thus far in the doubles draw however, anything can, and will happen here in Rio.