Tokyo 2020: With Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty out, who will win gold in wide-open women's draw at Olympic Games?
With three top seeds out before the quarter-finals, who is most likely to win gold in the women's singles tennis event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games? Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka were the top two seeds but both suffered early exits. The only top top-10 seeds remaining now are Elina Svitolina and Garbine Muguruza.
History has already been made in the women’s tennis event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
For the first time since tennis returned competitively to the Games in 1988, none of the top three seeds have made the quarter-finals. Australian top seed Ashleigh Barty suffered a shock first-round defeat to Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, while second seed Naomi Osaka, one of the most high-profile Japanese athletes at the tournament, lost in straight sets to Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova, and Belarusian third seed Aryna Sabalenka was beaten in the second round by Croatian Donna Vekic.
The loss of the top three seeds, who are also the top three players in the WTA rankings, leaves a wide-open quarter-final draw. The only two top-10 seeds remaining are Ukrainian fourth seed Elina Svitolina and Spanish seventh seed Garbine Muguruza. They are joined in the last eight by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russian Olympic Committee), Belinda Bencic (Switzerland), Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan), Camila Giorgi (Italy), Paula Badosa (Spain) and Vondrousova (Czech Republic).
So who is most likely to take home the gold medal from Tokyo?
Muguruza is the only Grand Slam champion remaining in the women’s field. The 27-year-old, who won has won the French Open and Wimbledon, has looked in impressive form so far as she is yet to drop a set in singles. When it comes to handling the pressure of going for gold, Muguruza’s big-tournament experience should stand her in good stead.
She will be aiming to become the first Spaniard since Rafael Nadal in 2008 to win an Olympic medal in singles and will also be hoping to recover from an emotional doubles defeat with Carla Suarez Navarro. The pair both struggled to hold back the tears after squandering a match point against Swiss duo Viktorija Golubic and Belinda Bencic, with Suarez Navarro playing her final Games after recovering from cancer.
Muguruza next faces Elena Rybakina, who is ranked No 20 in the world and beat Vekic in the last round. Muguruza beat Rybakina in straight sets on grass in Berlin last month.
The winner of the tie faces Bencic or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the semi-finals.
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World No 6 Svitolina has won 15 singles titles but Olympic gold would be the biggest success of her career so far. She’s often struggled to live up to her seeding at Grand Slams – only twice reaching the semi-finals – and hasn’t enjoyed too much success in the last three years.
However, she made the quarter-finals in Rio 2016 and is the only player left in the draw to have previously played in the last eight at an Olympics. After coming through a three-set battle with Greece’s Maria Sakkari she next faces Italian Camila Giorgi, who beat fifth seed Karolina Pliskova in the last round.
“I am trying not to think about my body but it’s hurting here and there,” said Svitolina. “In the end, I’m very happy with the win today. It was another tough battle but it definitely brings me a lot of confidence and I will now spend hours recovering and will be ready for tomorrow.”
If Svitolina wins her quarter-final she will face either Vondrousova or Paula Badosa.
Pavlyuchenkova, playing for the Russian Olympic Committee due to Russia’s suspension from the Games, has arguably been the form player in Tokyo so far. She has dropped just seven games in three matches – a record for the event since 1988 - and swept aside Sara Sorribes Tormo impressively in the last round.
Seeded 13th, Pavlyuchenkova made the final of the French Open last month and has won 15 of her past 19 matches. Her next opponent is Bencic, who beat French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova to make the quarter-finals. Asked about the prospect of facing Pavlyuchenkova, Bencic said: “She is a very dangerous opponent. Right now, she is playing the best tennis of her whole career. For sure, it’s a very difficult match, like always.”
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Pavlyuchenkova, who will also team up with Andrey Rublev in the mixed doubles, won her previous meeting with Bencic on hard courts in 2020. However, the overall head-to-head record is 5-2 in Bencic’s favour.
“I honestly don’t focus on that at all,” said Pavlyuchenkova. “I don’t focus on the names. I don’t focus on the rankings. I just take it match by match. It’s going to be another new match. All I focus on is myself. I want to feel good. I want to play good tennis, fight and do the best I can to win.”
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