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Nadal, Federer, Djokovic - Who are playing at the Tokyo Olympics?

Ageing by the day, the Big Three of tennis are being extremely picky about the tournaments they play to ensure they can continue their supremacy on the tour.

Nadal, Federer, Djokovic - Who are playing at the Tokyo Olympics?
The Big Three of tennis - Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer (from left to right)

Sohinee Basu

Updated: 17 Jun 2021 7:41 PM GMT

The 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medallist, Spain's Rafael Nadal decided to pull out of the Tokyo Olympics and the upcoming Wimbledon Games in order to listen to his body. A 20-time Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal's decision to not participate in either the Wimbledon or the Tokyo Olympics might be deeply upsetting but it isn't the biggest of surprises as well. Of late, the top players have become more attentive towards their health and fitness and think of the larger picture before choosing which tournament to play and assess what might be their chances at it.

Making up the Big Three in tennis - Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are legends of the sport and they have a total of 59 Grand Slams shared amongst them. Together, the trio have robbed an entire generation of players of winning Slams as they have established a powerful dominance in this field. Their command also extends at the Olympics as well as each of the Big Three have collected at least one medal each in men's singles at the Games.

With Rafael Nadal already ruling himself out of the picture, only Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic remain as the last two members of the Big Three who are yet to confirm their participation at the quadrennial sporting extravaganza. The 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist, Roger Federer is still on his comeback spree and hasn't found his form yet and therefore his Olympic participation is under heavy doubt, given the fact that he will turn 40 soon. On the other, Serbia's Novak Djokovic is most favourably placed ahead of both the Big W and the Tokyo Games and he is enjoying an incredible form currently and has his 19th Grand Slam victory at Roland Garros from last week to attest for it.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have expressed health concerns

Rafael Nadal

Tennis has considerably transformed over the past decade and the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal along with Novak Djokovic keep playing age-defying tennis and subvert all our previous notions regarding the game. In fact, the Big Three have exhibited that the idiom - age is just a number - holds most true for them as they continue to remain in the Top 10 of the ATP rankings.

While Novak Djokovic has shown no signs of struggle in the recent months and his on-court form, his ability to play back-to-back five-setters against difficult opponents and most importantly prevail against them, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are not party to this same exhilaration. Nadal's decision to withdraw from the Games and Big W centres around his reasons to preserve his health and to sustain his career longer. Federer, too, given his recent surgeries, is being extra careful and picky with the tournaments he is playing currently and is prioritizing his health to stretch the days of what definitely looks like his sunset years on the tour.

Tennis is a demanding sport - both physically as well as mentally. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant changes to the tennis season as well - causing a disruption in the usual flow. Because of the compressed schedule, tournaments and Grand Slams are getting closely-spaced and for ageing legends of the sport like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, this isn't proving to be the kindest of times.

Roger Federer is yet to find his invincible form ahead of Wimbledon and the Olympics

Roger Federer

Roger Federer was missing from action for more than a year after he underwent two knee surgeries in 2020 and spent most of the year in rehabilitation. Making a comeback on the tour only recently in May, Roger Federer's performance has been a tad lacklustre. Despite a phenomenal run at the French Open where the Swiss ace made it till the fourth round before deciding to withdraw owing to health concerns, Federer's form is still not quite back.

At Halle this week, Roger Federer lost to the 20-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime in a baffling manner that even left the 10-time Halle champion considerably sad. On his favourite grass turf, Roger looked like a magician who has been away from the stage too long and is clumsy with his tricks - his efforts to conjure the same spells now show.

However, Roger Federer, who is due to turn 40 on the very day the Tokyo Olympics is set to conclude - August 8, is still unsure about his participation in Japan although his participation at the Wimbledon is a given. With Rafael Nadal out of the picture, Federer's chances have slightly improved and the Swiss will desperately hope to enter God-mode as he begins his quest for a ninth Big W title. In any case, 2-time Olympic medallist, Roger Federer, given his age and pressing knee issues might just decide to pull out of the upcoming Tokyo Games.

Novak Djokovic will enter the Tokyo Olympics as a favourite

Novak Djokovic

The past week has been enough to reveal that 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Novak Djokovic might just very well be a superhuman. While the Serbian World No. 1 is famed for having the sharpest critics, the 34-year old has proven time and again that he is very well a part of the GOAT debate, if not the GOAT already.

Lifting his 19th Grand Slam title at the French Open - he is just one Slam shy of touching Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's record number. Novak Djokovic played other-worldly tennis en route to the mammoth victory in Paris. Handing the 13-time Roland Garros champion, Rafael Nadal a crushing defeat in his own backyard in the semi-finals, Djokovic went on to fight back from two sets down against Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas to clinch the title.

Novak Djokovic is one of the fittest players on the tour still, even at 34. By virtue of this form, the Serb will enter Wimbledon in hopes of equalling with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the Grand Slam tally by picking up a 20th title. In any case, Djokovic's momentum is strong currently and the Serb has no reason to sit out Tokyo and will therefore enter the Games as a raging favourite. Apart from a first round loss at the 2016 Rio Games against Argentina's Juan Martin del-Potro, Djokovic's performance at the Olympics have also been impressive and he has a bronze medal from his debut outing to account for it.

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