Canada eliminated from Olympic tennis contention with mixed doubles loss
Canadians Dabrowski, Auger-Aliassime, lose 1st round in straight sets
Canada's last chance for a tennis medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, has been eliminated.
The Canadian duo of Gabriela Dabrowski and Felix Auger-Aliassime lost in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, to Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the opening round of the mixed doubles tournament on Wednesday.
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The pair were Canada's last remaining tennis competitors in the Games, after Auger-Aliassime was upset in the first round in men's singles, Leylah Fernandez's second-round loss in women's singles, and Dabrowski and her partner Sharon Fichman's first-round exit in women's doubles.
"For sure it's disappointing. We thought we could go deep in this mixed doubles draw," Auger-Aliassime said after the match.
"It's a little bit unfortunate we got unlucky a few times. Because we felt we weren't a worse team than them on the court. We had the possibility to do better. It's how it is. I think we can do better in the future, for sure."
"Little bit sad, little but down. Frustrated with myself," a dejected Dabrowski said moments after the match. "So, yeah just too bad. [It's] sport. Someone's gotta lose."
On paper, the Canadians kept pace with the Greeks throughout the match. Both teams made 14 unforced errors while the Canadians never double-faulted, had two service winners, and had the edge on first serve.
But Canada failed to convert on its four break points opportunities.
"My net game was down, I feel. There were balls that I normally make and normally win the point off of that I was missing, and that could have made the difference," Dabrowski said.
"Other than that, there were a few times where I made slightly wrong shot selection or didn't execute the right shot selection and got a little unlucky."
"I also returned a little bit poorly compared to what I could have done on the service game in the second set and at the end of the match," Auger-Aliassime added.
"Overall the experience for me in my first games has been good. As a person, it's been positive but not the results I was hoping for. Far from that."
WATCH | Auger-Aliassime upset in opening round at Tokyo Olympics
'I can die': Medvedev survives extreme heat at Tokyo Games
Bent over in exhaustion before serving. Resting on his racket between points. Grasping for a rubber tube blowing cool air next to his seat on changeovers. Two medical timeouts and one visit from a trainer.
Daniil Medvedev was struggling so much with the suffocating heat and humidity at the Ariake Tennis Park on Wednesday that at one point the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, asked him if he could continue playing.
"I can finish the match but I can die," Medvedev replied. "If I die, are you going to be responsible?"
Afterward, Medvedev said he felt "darkness" in his eyes.
"I didn't know what to do to feel better," the Russian Olympic Committee player added. "I was ready to just fall down on the court."
Somehow, the second-seeded Medvedev still pulled out a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win over Fabio Fognini of Italy to reach the quarterfinals at the Tokyo Olympics.
Spanish player Paula Badosa was less fortunate. She left the court in a wheelchair after retiring from her quarterfinal match against Marketa Vondrousova because of heatstroke.
Badosa also had to withdraw from a mixed doubles match later with partner Pablo Carreno Busta.
Vondrousova, the Czech player who eliminated Naomi Osaka a day earlier, had won the first set 6-3. She's now in the semifinals and into the medal rounds and will next face fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine. Ninth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland will play 15th-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the other semifinal match.
After some rain a day earlier, the temperature rose to 31 degrees C but the heat index made it feel like a sizzling 37 degrees C.
'I couldn't breathe properly'
The problems the players faced raised questions over why organizers did not grant requests earlier in the tournament from Medvedev and other players — including top-ranked Novak Djokovic — to move all of the tennis matches at the Games to the evening.
Organizers said immediately after Medvedev's win that they were "considering" playing the matches later, starting Thursday.
In the interests of player health and welfare and following extensive consultation, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Tennis Event matches will begin at 3pm JST from Thursday 29 July<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/tennis?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#tennis</a> <a href="https://t.co/skqh9ALRIV">pic.twitter.com/skqh9ALRIV</a>—@ITFMedia
Medvedev received medical treatment and had his chest massaged while leading 5-2 in the opening set but then held his serve in the next game to close it out. He then took another medical timeout while trailing 4-3 in the second.
"I felt like my diaphragm has blocked," Medvedev said. "I couldn't breathe properly. It was the most humid day we had so far — maybe the hottest."
With so much suffering, Medvedev took his time between points, which drew protests from Fognini.
Both players were allowed to leave the court for 10 minutes between the second and third sets with an extreme heat rule in effect.
Medvedev said he took a "cold, freezing shower" during the break but that the sharp change in temperature put his body into shock and caused him to cramp.
After holding for a 5-2 lead in the third, Medvedev received yet more medical treatment when a trainer came out onto the court and massaged his left arm and thigh.
Fognini slammed his racket onto the court in disgust when the match was over, then picked the racket up and placed it in a court-side trash can.
Medvedev — if he's up to it — will next face sixth-seeded Carreno Busta, who beat Dominik Koepfer of Germany 7-6 (7), 6-3.
Djokovic continues quest for Golden Slam
Djokovic was fortunate to play later in the day after Center Court was covered by shadows. The Serbian great served nine aces and defeated Spanish training partner Alejandro Davidovich 6-3, 6-1 to keep his Golden Slam bid going.
Djokovic's quarterfinal opponent will be Kei Nishikori of Japan, who reached his third straight Olympic quarterfinal by beating Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 7-6 (7), 6-0.
Djokovic was scheduled to play again later with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic against Marcelo Melo and Luisa Stefani of Brazil in the opening round of the mixed doubles competition.
In singles, Djokovic is attempting to become the first man to achieve a Golden Slam by winning all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.
Djokovic has already won the Australian and French Opens plus Wimbledon this year, so now he needs the Tokyo Games title and the U.S. Open trophy to complete the unique collection.
With files from Nick Murray, CBC Sports