Olympics: Prospect of making history will outweigh empty seats in Tokyo, says Djokovic

Men's world tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic considered pulling out of the Olympics due to Covid-19-related restrictions, but headed to Japan for patriotic reasons.
Men's world tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic considered pulling out of the Olympics due to Covid-19-related restrictions, but headed to Japan for patriotic reasons.PHOTO: REUTERS

BELGRADE (REUTERS) - The prospect of winning an Olympic gold medal for Serbia outweighs the disappointment of playing in an empty venue at the Tokyo Games, the men's world tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic said on Monday (July 19).

He had considered pulling out of the Olympics due to Covid-19-related restrictions after winning Wimbledon this month but decided to head to Japan for what he called patriotic reasons.

Brimming with confidence in a televised interview with Montenegro's MINA news agency in the coastal republic's resort of Herceg Novi, he said Croatia's former Olympian Blanka Vlasic had helped persuade him not to pull out.

"It came down to patriotism and my feelings for Serbia," Djokovic said after completing a practice session on a hard-court surface.

"I am not overjoyed about playing with no fans present or about the various coronavirus restrictions effective in Japan, but representing your country in the Olympics is indispensable.

"I came across Blanka Vlasic a few days ago and she said that people will only remember who won the medals, not what the conditions were like or whether there were any fans or not," he said.

"Her words stuck with me and I am delighted that I decided to take part in the Olympics. I am inspired to play my best tennis and confident that I can win the gold medal after a tremendous run so far this season."

Vlasic won the silver medal in the women's high jump at the 2008 Games in Beijing and bronze in Rio 2016.

Djokovic won a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam when he claimed this season's Wimbledon to go level with peers Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Should he win the Olympic gold - the one title that has eluded him so far - and the Aug 30-Sept 12 US Open, Djokovic would become the first man ever to win all four majors in a year plus an Olympic title ie the "Golden Slam".

The 34-year old from Belgrade conceded it was going to be a big ask, although Federer and Nadal have both pulled out of Tokyo.

"The Olympics and the US Open are obviously my biggest objectives for the remainder of the season, and it's going to be demanding," said Djokovic.

"But I am full of confidence and motivated to represent Serbia in the best possible way. I am yearning for a medal in Tokyo, hopefully gold, and then I'll go to New York aiming to complete it all."