The men's singles tennis starts at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday morning so Dan Weston previews the event and discusses the betting...
"Novak Djokovic has never won a men’s singles Olympic Gold Medal, and at 34 years of age, is extremely likely to view this as his final opportunity to approach the Olympics as an elite level player"
Djokovic the last winner at the Ariake Tennis Park
Usually the Olympics gets held every four years, but for obvious reasons we have had to wait five for an event which is extremely hard to have confidence in with regards to how it will play out. We know it will be played on hard courts with a 64 man draw and best of three sets, with a standard tiebreak in the singles events. It will be played at the Ariake Tennis Park which is used for some of the regular tour events each year.
The venue was last used on the main tour in 2019, at an event that was won by Novak Djokovic - there could be a recurring theme here - who beat John Millman in the final, after the Australian got through a pretty open draw.
Assuming the dynamics are still the same as a regular tour event, I'm anticipating the conditions to be not much quicker than average for a hard court tournament.
Djokovic and Medvedev lead the outrights
Speaking of Djokovic, we'd better get to the outright odds.
It's no surprise that the world number one is the heavy favourite to win the gold medal, priced up at 1.748/11 on the Exchange at the time of writing. Daniil Medvedev 5.14/1 is the only other contender in single digit pricing, and these prices don't look far out of line to me.
Hurdles for Djokovic in his bracket include Andrey Rublev and Alexander Zverev, although being in the top half of the draw naturally hinders the chances of two of the few players on tour who are close to contending with the elite players for major titles. Given the draw, Zverev at 11.010/1 looks very short-priced.
According to the market, there's around a 76% chance that the gold medal goes to either Djokovic or Medvedev, so the chances of a random winner occurring - like Monica Puig last time in the women's event, for example - is extremely low.
Andy Murray is the two-time defending champion, but the Scotsman is unlikely to make it a three-peat, priced at 110.0109/1 at the time of writing and he faces a very tricky opener against Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Tsitsipas stands in Medvedev's path
In the bottom half of the draw, Daniil Medvedev looks the obvious favourite to come through to potentially meet Djokovic as the second seed with a very winnable half with the likes of Murray and Auger-Aliassime, plus Stefanos Tsitsipas, Ugo Humbert, and Pablo Carreno-Busta some other contenders in the bottom half.
Realistically, it's Tsitsipas who is the likely player to prevent Medvedev from reaching the final. The duo are noted as not being the best of friends, and while Medvedev won their first five meetings, Tsitsipas has won two of the last three, with those wins on indoor hard court and clay.
This year on hard court, Medvedev does have an overall edge on their data. Both players win around 70% of service points with Tsitsipas having a very marginal advantage, but Medvedev wins around 4% more points on return which makes him the better hard courter at this stage of their careers. The market does appear to have the duo the right way around in the outrights, with Tsitsipas available at around 11.010/1 currently.
This could be the last chance for Djokovic to win Olympic Gold
It's difficult to quite know how to treat this event. Maybe a three-set Grand Slam tournament would be a reasonable comparison, and some may think that's similar to a Masters 1000 event. However, the prestige and pressure of the opportunity to win a Gold Medal - something that only 10 players have ever managed - makes this rather different to a Masters, of which there are a number each season.
Djokovic has never won a men's singles Olympic Gold Medal, and at 34 years of age, is extremely likely to view this as his final opportunity to approach the Olympics as an elite level player. This creates a fascinating dynamic for the tournament but there is little doubt that the world number one is the man to beat in this event.
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