Novak Djokovic remains on course for a ‘Golden Slam’ after ruthlessly ending the dreams of home hope Kei Nishikori to cruise into the Olympic semi-finals.
The world number one, bidding to become the first man to win all four Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold in the same year, breezed through 6-2 6-0.
He will face Germany’s Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals on Friday.
Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and the Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova will meet in Saturday’s women’s final.
Bencic outlasted Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 6-3 in a match lasting almost three hours in the searing Tokyo heat, saving five set points in a 73-minute opening set that she won on a tie-break.
The Swiss later returned to the court to become the fifth player to reach finals in both singles and doubles at a Games since tennis was reintroduced to the Olympics in 1988, as she and Viktorija Golubic beat Brazilian pair Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani 7-5 6-3.
Vondrousova, ranked 42nd in the world, enjoyed a far more serene passage as she followed up her upset of Naomi Osaka by shocking world number six Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-1 in little over an hour.ADVERTISEMENT
Thursday’s matches began at 15:00 local time (07:00 BST), four hours later than on previous days, after organisers agreed to push start times back following complaints from players about the hot conditions.
There were few concerns about the heat for Djokovic as he took just an hour and 10 minutes to dispatch Japan’s 2016 bronze medallist Nishikori, who cut an increasingly forlorn figure as his hopes of winning a medal for the host nation were obliterated.
Victory equalled another record for the Serb, who drew level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon last month, as he matched the Swiss’ 13 singles match Olympic wins.
Djokovic, however, has never reached an Olympic final, and standing in his way is 24-year-old Zverev, who produced a display almost as impressive as the top seed to see off France’s Jeremy Chardy 6-4 6-1.
“Playing after five [pm] is completely different. Obviously, there is a little bit of a breeze,” said Djokovic, 34.
“It’s still very, very humid – you sweat a lot but you don’t have the heat, you don’t have the sun that, in combination with the humidity, is just brutal.”
However, world number two Daniil Medvedev, one of the players who had voiced concerns about the heat, was again unhappy after his 6-2 7-6 (7-5) quarter-final defeat by Pablo Carreno Busta.
Medvedev left the court to change his clothes after the opening set, as he did during Wednesday’s third-round win over Fabio Fognini.
“I changed everything I had on. I wanted to change my skin because I was sweating like I never did before. It was terrible,” said the Russian Olympic Committee player.
“I was wet like hell. I couldn’t toss the ball well, once I tossed the ball and got water in my eyes. It was not easy to play.”
Medvdev’s compatriot Karen Khachanov, who beat France’s Ugo Humbert 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-3, will meet Spain’s Carreno Busta in Friday’s other semi-final at the Ariake Tennis Park.