Tokyo 2020: Novak Djokovic should skip Olympics

Novak Djokovic to play at Tokyo Olympics (Photo by AELTC/Simon Bruty - Pool/Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic to play at Tokyo Olympics (Photo by AELTC/Simon Bruty - Pool/Getty Images) /

With his 20th major slam under his belt and firmly entrenched in a three-way tie with the other two undisputed GOATs of this era: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic should set his sights on completing the calendar slam as opposed to risking losing, and potentially, his health at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Playing in the Olympics is a proposition that gives Novak Djokovic little to gain, but potentially a lot to lose.

After playing in both the French Open and Wimbledon and winning both, Novak is surely tired. Neither Nadal nor Federer played in both tournaments as Nadal skipped Wimbledon to recover and Federer withdrew from the French Open to rest for Wimbledon. Djokovic played both tournaments in their entirety and following essentially a full month of five-set tennis, it is in his best interest, in my opinion, that he rest for the U.S open and skip Tokyo altogether.

Earlier this year, he said he planned on going to Tokyo if there were fans allowed – a decision I would have respected. However, with no fans being permitted, and only 17 percent of the Japanese population fully vaccinated, I believe it is an unnecessary health risk for Djokovic to play in the Tokyo games. The U.S Open is only 20 days after the Olympics, and if Djokovic potentially contracts the coronavirus and is forced to quarantine prior to the tournament, it may result in him falling out of his exceptional form and losing his concentration – not to mention the uncertainty of how his body would react to the virus.

Additionally, the risk of physical injury isn’t worth the price of fighting for gold as the U.S Open would be far more significant. If Djokovic wins the U.S Open, he would complete the second calendar slam in men’s singles tennis in the Open Era and it would push him ahead of both Federer and Nadal in total slams – a feat that would go down in history regardless of whether or not he adds a gold medal to his trophy room or not.

Lastly, it is worth considering Djokovic’s chances of winning the Olympics as well. His last medal in the event was a bronze in Beijing in 2008 – he did not medal in either 2012 or 2016 despite being a top-2 ranked seed both times. Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Alexander Zverev will all come in as first-time competitors and are well rested after early Wimbledon exits. Others like Matteo Berrettini are in great form and have power more suited to put players away in best of three-set matches as opposed to the five-setters at majors.

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Novak Djokovic runs the risk of getting hurt either physically or due to COVID-19 or losing which would put a blemish on the season in the eyes of some of his critics. By winning, he adds a footnote to his season if and only if he also completes the calendar slam by winning the U.S Open which he might not have enough time to recover for following the Olympics. All in all, if he does decide to play, I will surely be rooting for him to make history, but in the grand scheme of things, it appears to me that playing comes with a risk that may not be worth the reward.