Olympic tennis draw: Ashleigh Barty & Naomi Osaka discover first-round opponents

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The Olympic tennis draw has been announced with 64 female players set to battle for a gold medal this year.

The Olympics is widely considered one of the most prestigious tournaments in tennis, aside from the four Grand Slams, and generally attracts the best players from all over the world.

However, 2016 gold medallist Monica Puig will not defend her title this year because of injury –– nor will silver medallist Angelique Kerber who is struggling with a thigh problem.

In truth, there are plenty of stars missing this year for a variety of reasons. World number three Simona Halep is injured, US youngster Coco Gauff and British number one Johanna Konta have both tested positive for Covid-19 and Serena Williams has chosen to skip the tournament to prepare for the US Open.

But, despite the absence of some of the games’ top names, the top two players in the world will both compete in Tokyo.

Number one seed Ashleigh Barty faces Sara Sorribes Tormo in the opening round. The 24-year-old Spaniard climbed into the world’s top 50 earlier this year and claimed her first WTA career title at the Abierto Zapopan in March.

The Australian is in red hot form at the moment, though, having overcome an injury to win her second major title at Wimbledon and will fancy her chances of claiming her first Olympic medal.

Meanwhile, world number two Naomi Osaka is back after taking a period of time away from the game to deal with her mental health.

The Japanese star would’ve been a fan favourite had spectators been permitted, but the event will be behind closed doors –– thereby levelling the playing field to some extent.

Osaka takes on China’s Zheng Saisai in her opener. While the 23-year-old has spent significant time away from tennis, she remains a hard court specialist with four major titles on this surface.

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Heather Watson is the only Brit in this year’s competition but has been given a favourable draw against world number 125 Anna-Lena Friedsam.

Should Watson come through that test, either Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova or Sara Errani await, with a potential third-round match against Barty on the cards.

Rio bronze medallist Petra Kvitová faces Italy’s Jasmine Paolini in her first-round match as she looks to bounce back from her shock first-round Wimbledon exit.

The tournament gets underway on Saturday, 24th July and runs through to Saturday, 31st July.

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