Novak Djokovic Calls Naomi Osaka a 'Great Champion' Ahead of Her First Match in 2 Months at Tokyo Olympics
"I don't think you guys [the press] are going to cause a lot of trouble for [Naomi]," Novak Djokovic said of Osaka's possible media requirements after missing the French Open and Wimbledon
Novak Djokovic is praising Naomi Osaka ahead of her Olympics debut, which will also be her first match in two months.
"Naomi Osaka is a great champion of our sport. And playing in her own country, without a crowd, obviously, it's not ideal for her … But it is what it is," Djokovic, who won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, told reporters in Tokyo on Thursday. Second-seeded Osaka will be representing Japan.
In addition to speaking about the lack of spectators, Djokovic also briefly referenced how Osaka did not take part in the French Open and Wimbledon in an effort to preserve her mental wellness. Osaka withdrew from both tournaments after she was fined $15,000 in May for not participating in media requirements and press conferences.
"She and Kei Nishikori carry a lot of responsibility and weight on their shoulders," Djokovic said of Osaka and Nishikori, who is another big name in men's tennis. "But [Osaka] has quite a lot of experience playing at the highest level, so I don't think you guys [the press] are going to cause a lot of trouble for her."
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In her first match in nearly two months, Osaka is set to take on 52nd-ranked Saisai Zheng of China in the opening round of the Olympic tournament. Meanwhile, top-ranked Djokovic will play Hugo Dellien of Bolivia, who holds a No. 139 rank.
Also in Tokyo, Djokovic could make history as the first man to complete a Golden Slam by winning all four major tennis tournaments and an Olympic singles gold medal in the same year. Djokovic earned his 20th career Grand Slam title at Wimbledon and earlier this year, he won the Australian and French Opens.
"It is still a long way to go … I put myself in a very good position. But I will take things very slowly and cautiously. It's an approach I need to have because in the past I wasn't probably fully experienced in that approach. And I started to feel there were a lot of distractions around that influenced my performance," Djokovic said Thursday.
"I know there are a lot of things on the line, a lot of history on the line. I'm privileged to be in this position. I worked very hard to be here, with my team, of course. But let's talk about history if everything goes great," he added.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23rd and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning August 24th on NBC.