Tokyo Olympics: Iga Swiatek makes fast start as players struggle with heat factor

New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Jul 24, 2021, 01:55 PM(IST)

Iga Swiatek Photograph:( AFP )

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Poland's Iga Swiatek put in a clinical performance to beat Mona Barthel of Germany on her Olympics debut. 

Poland's Iga Swiatek put in a clinical performance to move past Mona Barthel of Germany with a 6-2 6-2 win on her Olympic debut, as sweltering conditions in Tokyo took a toll on the players on the opening day of tennis at the Games.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova lost only one game versus Italy's Sara Errani but this year's Roland Garros runner-up had spent enough time on Court Three under the blazing sun to feel dizzy and took a medical timeout in the second set.

Pavlyuchenkova, competing in Tokyo as a representative of the Russian Olympic Committee because the country was stripped of its flag and anthem for doping offenses, tried to keep herself cool with ice bags and an air tube but it was not enough.

She called for the trainer while leading 4-1 in the second set but was able to return to court to complete a 6-0 6-1 win, with temperatures hovering around 33 degrees Celsius (91.4°F).

"I feel better but I have a massive headache now so that's why I was trying to try to cool down after the match and rest, relax a little bit," she told reporters. "Just happy I got that one through."

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Her compatriot, Daniil Medvedev, said it was some of the worst heat he has played in after beating Kazakh Alexander Bublik 6-4 7-6(8) in the second match on Centre Court.

"But you have to play, it's the Olympics," world number two Medvedev said. "You go for the medal. You're not here to cry about the heat. It was really tough for both of us."

Swiatek, the 2020 French Open champion, had the chance to kick off proceedings on the main show court after Naomi Osaka's match was moved back by a day due to her involvement in Friday's opening ceremony.

With media, volunteers, and the players' entourage the only ones present at the 20,000-seater stadium to witness her Olympic debut, Swiatek managed to stay calm and composed to beat Barthel, formerly ranked among the world's top 25.

The 20-year-old got off to a fast start with a 5-0 lead and did not look back to set up a second-round meeting against either Spain's Paula Badosa or France's Kristina Mladenovic.

"I'm pretty happy that I'm into the second round and not only the humidity and temperature was hard but also the sun because on one side it was pretty hard to serve," said Swiatek, whose father Tomasz competed for Poland in rowing at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

"We had to adjust quickly and change our ball toss. That was hard but the players who can adjust are going to be the best ones here."

French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova did not have to spend much time on the court as her Kazakh opponent Zarina Diyas retired with a left leg problem with the Czech leading 5-2. Krejcikova will meet Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez next.

In men's doubles, Britain's Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury stunned second-seeded Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-3 6-2 with the French pair looking to add the Olympic gold to their resume having won all four majors at least once.

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