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Tokyo Tennis Women’s Wrap: Opening Day sees seeds sail through to Olympics second round

By Thomas Cluck

Following an uplifting and enlightening Opening Ceremony to officially light the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to order, tennis at the Ariake Coliseum saw a light but orderly Order of Play on Opening Day. 

Being given the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron in Friday’s Opening Ceremonies, tennis’ biggest star in these Olympics, host Japan’s Naomi Osaka, was moved to Day Two while Poland’s Iga Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, led the Day One slate. Swiatek, one of the top seeds in these Olympics, cruised past a well-known veteran in the sport, Germany’s Mona Barthel, winning 6-2, 6-2 in routine fashion to get off court quickly and avoid the sizzling heat on these Tokyo hard courts. 

The woman who followed up Swiatek’s 2020 Roland Garros win with one of her own this year, Czech Barbora Krejickova, had a light day of work as well, receiving a retirement at 5-2 from Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas. 

Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic extinguished one of Team USA’s top tennis hopes, Jessica Pegula, making a tough match on paper look easy in a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 win. Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, who’s busted onto the scene the last two years including knocking Serena Willams out of this year’s French Open, held off 2011 US Open winner Samantha Stosur of Australia, appearing in her last Olympics, 6-4, 6-2. 

In other results, the original Olympic nation, Greece, saw a win for their own spartan Maria Sakkari, saving set points in the opening set to come back and defeat Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit in two straight sets 7-5, 6-2 in the heat of the day. Team Canada saw a win from teenager Leylah Fernandez over controversial Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska, fresh off serving a doping ban for performance-enhancing drugs, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-0. Finally, 2019 French Open runner-up Marketa Vondrousova defeated The Netherlands’ Kiki Bertens, retiring this year, winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to move on.

Two notable women’s doubles results, always a popular event at the Olympics, saw Spain’s duo of Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro, making her comeback from defeating cancer, also defeat multiple-time major doubles winner Elise Mertens and Alison van Uytvanck 6-3, 7-6. Ukraine suffered another defeat as Elina Svitolina and Yastremska fell to France’s Alize Cornet and Fiona Ferro 6-2, 6-4.

Day Two sees some big names in action with world number one and newly-crowned Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia facing Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, Japan’s star Osaka kicking off her quest for home glory against China’s Zheng Saisai and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus going up against Poland’s Magda Linette. 

Outer court action includes Rio 2016 bronze medalist Petra Kvitova taking on Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, Wimbledon finalist Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic facing France’s Cornet, Spain’s Muguruza facing Russian Veronika Kudermetova, and Ukrainian Svitolina seeing German Laura Siegemund. Team USA sees another top hope Jennifer Brady take on Italian Camila Giorgi.