The Olympics begin on Saturday and despite all the withdrawals, the draw still packs a punch. And right off the bat it’s a rematch of the 2012 bronze match between World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro. Wow!
And that’s not all. Former gold medallists Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal both have tests. Murray meets Viktor Troicki while Nadal faces Federico Delbonis. OK, neither are true world beaters but I wouldn’t them easy draws – Delbonis beat Murray at Indian Wells!
Looking at the rest of the field…
Novak Djokovic Quarter
I actually give Delpo a chance come Sunday. With support from the South American crowd, his love of the Olympics I think he has a chance, but it’s suicide to pick against Novak right now, especially on the hardcourts on which he’s been unbeatable of late. Djokovic should run into Jack Sock in the third round and then JW Tsonga in the quarters. I think Tsonga takes out Roberto Bautista Agut in what is a pretty easy section for the Frenchman. But I don’t like him against Djokovic especially if the court isn’t playing quick.
The pick: Novak Djokovic
Rafael Nadal Quarter
After two months fixing that left wrist, Nadal is finally back on court, seeking a second gold medal in singles. And I think early on he’s got a good draw with Delbonis and then Andreas Seppi, but then it’s Gilles Simon and David Goffin, two tough customers on the hardcourts. And by also playing doubles and possibly mixed, but then who knows how much he has left or if that wrist is OK. So in this section, I like Goffin to beat Pablo Cuevas in the third, then Nadal in the quarters to make the semifinals.
The pick: David Goffin
Kei Nishikori Quarter
Off his final run in Toronto last week, Nishikori in the favorite, but only slight because it’s a dangerous section with Gael Monfils, Phil Kohlschreiber and Marin Cilic who faces Grigor Dimitrov. Olympics brings out the nerves like little else, so of the group I think mentally Nishikori’s the toughest (he’s got that great record in deciding sets), so I’ll lean on him to beat Kohlschreiber and then Monfils.
The pick: Kei Nishikori
Andy Murray Quarter
Murray is back after his second Wimbledon title, and I don’t see anyone slowing him down on his summer hardcourt debut is what is the easiest section of the draw. Murray might have to deal with Benoit Paire, David Ferrer, Fabio Fognini or Steve Johnson? That’s as good as a gets. If Troicki serves hot in the opener maybe there’s some trouble, otherwise Andy’s on easy street in Rio as tries to become the first player to defend a gold medal in tennis.
The pick: Andy Murray
Djokovic d Goffin: Goffin not strong enough to bother Novak.
Murray d Nishikori: Muray too much variety for Nishikori.
Djokovic d Murray: I think the chance to beat Novak was last week, and no one took it.
With no Roger, no Stan and No Milos, it’s hard to see anything other than another Djokovic-Murray final. And with the 5-6 days off for everyone, that should keep most of the players fresh at the start. That is until the doubles kicks in, and then the mixed.
And remember, like Davis Cup the Olympic place a different, more straining kind of pressure on the players. This is your once chance at gold. Miss it and you have four years to think about it.
BRAVO has the coverage on Saturday and all week thereafter. Plus doubles.
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