Britain’s Andy Murray, bristling with confidence after ending a three-year wait for another grand slam title at Wimbledon, will seek to make history in Brazil by becoming the first man to win successive Olympic gold medals in men’s singles tennis.
But to replicate his London Olympics triumph Murray will need to find a chink in the armour of Novak Djokovic, the proud Serb who has dominated men’s tennis in recent years and now has his eye on the only major honour to elude him.
In recent years Murray has struggled to hold his own in the rivalry against childhood friend Djokovic, who defeated him in this year’s Australian and French Open finals to became the first man since 1969 to hold all four grand slam titles at once.
Djokovic’s maiden French Open title elevated the Serb, a winner of 12 grand slams, to the pantheon of tennis greats but a lacklustre third-round exit at Wimbledon has offered hope to Murray and his other rivals that his dominance may be ebbing.
“Winning medals for your country is as good as it gets,” said Murray, who in 2012 became the first Briton in 104 years to win a men’s singles gold medal at Olympics.
Three-time grand slam winner Murray will be hoping to improve on his 24-10 career match record against Djokovic in Brazil, where the two men are favourites to take gold.
Roger Federer’s hopes of winning a men’s singles Olympics gold to go with the doubles title he won in 2008 look to be at an end, however, after the 34-year-old pulled out of Rio – and the rest of the season – to undergo rehabilitation on his left knee.
Meanwhile Rafa Nadal’s injury situation is “delicate” ahead of the Olympics, according to Spanish team-mate David Ferrer.
Nadal, a 14-time grand slam champion, has not played a competitive match since May 27 when a left wrist injury forced him to pull out of the French Open after the second round and miss Wimbledon.
World number four Nadal won gold in Beijing eight years ago and will be Spain’s flag bearer in Rio.
“I will travel with Rafa on Sunday to Rio,” Ferrer told Spanish radio Cadena Ser.
“His situation is more delicate. It’s never easy to come back after an injury. We will see how he feels.”
In the women’s game, 22-time grand slam winner Serena Williams is hot favourite to retain the Olympic singles gold that she won for the first time in 2012.
Williams, who won three Olympic doubles gold medals with sister Venus, underscored her dominance of the women’s game this month by lifting her seventh Wimbledon title.
Germany’s Angelique Kerber and Spain’s Garbine Muguruza are expected to be her main challengers in Rio.
But Russia’s Maria Sharapova, who lost to Williams in the 2012 final, will miss Rio as she is still serving a two-year ban for failing a drugs test.