On Thursday, the draws for the Rio Olympics were formulated and they aren’t lacking for early headline matches.
The opening match between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro, a rematch of del Potro’s win in the 2012 bronze medal match, is getting all the attention, though it’s unlikely this post-injury version of del Potro can put up a serious challenge. Andy Murray continued his 2016 pattern of very kind draws. Unless someone (Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for Djokovic, or Fabio Fognini for Murray) gets really hot, both will be in the semis. Rafa Nadal got a workable draw in his return from injury. Only Kei Nishikori got a tough path among the top contenders.
Serena Williams has a lot of notable names in her quarter, but none are real challengers. Olympic rules put all four American women in different quarters, so Venus Williams landed in sister Serena’s half, while Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens are in the bottom half. Stephens versus Genie Bouchard is the top match of round one. There’s always a volatile quarter in women’s draws and here it’s Garbine Muguruza’s. If Muguruza and Venus aren’t in form, might as well pull a name out of a hat for predicting the semifinalist from that quarter.
Thankfully for the balance of the draw, Nadal and partner Marc Lopez landed in the Tsonga/Monfils quarter. Lopez/Nadal and the top three seeds (Herbert/Mahut, the Murrays, Melo/Soares) are the medal threats, though Dan Nestor and Vasek Pospisil are an interesting wildcard. Rosol/Stepanek over Ferrer/Bautista Agut would be an upset only in seeding.
It’s a shame that the reunited team of Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci are in the Williams sisters quarter, though it’s fair because the women’s doubles draw has more depth than the men’s (same story in singles). All of the top eight seeds are legit threats here.
All images via @doublefault28 on Twitter
Full predictions to come later.
Play begins on Saturday, while the 16 mixed doubles teams will be finalized and slotted into a draw on Tuesday.