By Sudipto Ganguly and Rozanna Latiff
TOKYO (Reuters) – A day after Naomi Osaka became the first tennis player to light an Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony, Novak Djokovic said the sport’s global profile was boosted at the Tokyo Games.
Osaka, a quadruple Grand Slam champion and daughter of a Haitian and a Japanese woman, was revealed as the final Olympic torchbearer on Friday night at a time that has been described as a reflection of the growing diversity of Japan and the Games. .
The sport’s profile in Tokyo was also raised by the Serbian’s quest to become the first man to complete the Golden Slam by winning all four majors as well as Olympic singles gold in the same year.
“It can’t be better for our sport,” Djokovic, the only one of tennis greats to make the trip to Tokyo after Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal opted to skip the Games, after his victory in the tournament, told reporters. first round at Ariake Parc des Tennis.
“Obviously you don’t have Roger and Rafa who are big stars and legends of our sport but still a lot of great players, Osaka is the home favorite, and a lot of eyes on her and being at home in playing a lot of pressure.
“But it’s great for our sport in general, as there is a lot of attention.”
At the Athletes’ Village, world number one Djokovic was inundated with requests for photographs with competitors from other sports, many of whom have taken to social media.
A photo of Djokovic making a perfect split with a pair of Belgian gymnasts even caught the attention of great gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who complimented https://twitter.com/nadiacomaneci10/status/1418659349262741506 the 34-year-old form on Twitter .
“Great flexibility, I can say @DjokerNole,” she wrote with a series of clapping emojis.
International Tennis Federation President David Haggerty said Osaka’s moment at the opening ceremony was “a great showcase” for the sport.
“It was special. I think it was maybe the first time a first-time Olympian has done this,” he told Reuters.
“I think it showcases not only Japan but also tennis on a great platform.”
(Report by Rozanna Latiff, edited by Pritha Sarkar)