Nagal looks to end India's 25-year tennis singles drought at Tokyo Games

Novak Djokovic will also kickstart his campaign for an elusive singles gold medal at the Olympics, while Great Britain’s two-time gold medallist Andy Murray will also be in action.

India's Sumit Nagal will look to end 25-year drought for a singles win at the Olympics when he faces Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin in Tokyo on Saturday. (FILE PHOTO)   -  R. Ragu

Sumit Nagal will look to end India’s 25-year drought for a singles win in tennis at the Olympic Games when he takes on Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin on Saturday.

At No. 197 in the world, Istomin is ranked 37 places below Nagal, but the 34-year-old is an accomplished player, having made the fourth round at Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in his career, and was the Asian Games singles gold medallist in 2018. In 2017, he famously upset two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic in Melbourne.

But the last two years haven’t been kind to the Uzbek. He dropped out of the top 100 in June 2019 and hasn’t returned to the select group since then, forcing him to go through the grind of the ATP Challenger Tour and play qualifiers at Grand Slams.

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It has been an underwhelming few months for Nagal, too. Since making the quarterfinals at the ATP 250 event in Buenos Aires in early March, the 23-year-old has a win-loss record of 13-13. He lost in the French Open qualifiers and didn’t make the trip to London for Wimbledon. Nagal will now be hoping to get his tennis back on track leading into the North American hard-court swing and the US Open.

Elsewhere, world No.1 Novak Djokovic will kickstart his campaign for an elusive singles gold medal with an opening-round match against Bolivia’s world No. 139 Hugo Dellien. The Serb, who has a bronze medal from Beijing 2008, is on a mission to complete the ‘golden’ Grand Slam, the herculean feat of winning all four Majors and the Olympic gold in a single year, which only Steffi Graf has accomplished until now, in 1988.

Also in action on day one in Tokyo will be the two latest French Open women’s singles champions, Iga Swiatek and Barbora Krejcikova, as well as Great Britain’s two-time gold medallist and three-time Major winner Andy Murray, among others.

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