TOKYO (Reuters) -Belinda Bencic could become the first woman to win a singles gold for Switzerland after securing a berth to the Olympic final with a hard-earned 7-6 (2) 4-6 6-3 victory against Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina on Thursday.
Ahead of her in Saturday’s title match was Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who knocked out Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina 6-3 6-1 in a one-sided game.
On the men’s side, 20-time major champion Novak Djokovic qualified in the last four with an impressive performance against Japan’s Kei Nishikori, but world number two Daniil Medvedev fell with a 6-2 7- loss. 6 (5) against Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta. .
Bencic was in tears after ending a nervous battle against Rybakina, 20th, who lost several leads in an upside down semi-final on center court.
The victory will secure Switzerland a tennis medal for the fourth consecutive Olympic Games, while Bencic will have a chance to be the first player to win a singles gold for the country since Marc Rosset won the Olympic final. male in 1992.
“I mean my emotions right now are too strong. To have the medal for me is the best thing ever,” the 24-year-old told reporters.
“To be here as an athlete, for the Olympics, it’s amazing and also to have a medal, it’s something I dreamed of and I didn’t think it would come true.”
The Swiss also became the fifth player on Thursday to advance to the singles and doubles tournament finals since tennis returned to the 1988 Olympics, after American sisters Venus (2000) and Serena Williams (2012), the Chilean. Nicolas Massu (2004) and the Briton. Andy Murray (2012).
Bencic and partner Viktorija Golubic beat Brazilian pair Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani 7-5 6-3 in the women’s doubles semi-final.
Matches began at 3 p.m. local time on Thursday after organizers agreed to delay the competition following complaints from players about the hot and humid conditions at Ariake Tennis Park.
Top-ranked Djokovic was at his best in his 6-2 6-0 victory over Nishikori as he remained on track to become the first player to win all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold the same year since Steffi Graf in 1988.
“The matches aren’t getting any easier but my tennis level is getting better and better,” said the Serbian, whose victory over Nishikori put an end to local hopes for a medal in singles.
“I’ve done it so many times in my career. I know I’m the type of player that the further the tournament goes, the better I feel on the pitch, and I do here.
“Best tournament performance tonight against a good opponent.”
Djokovic will next face Germany’s Alexander Zverev – who beat Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4 6-1 – for a place in Sunday’s final.
In their first meeting, Karen Khachanov beat Frenchman Ugo Humbert 7-6 (4) 4-6 6-3 in a very close game to secure a place in the men’s semi-final against Carreno Busta.
Carreno Busta’s victory ruled out an all-Russian semi-final and the Spaniard said his match against Medvedev was one of the best of his career.
“Daniil is a very good player, he’s very solid from the baseline,” said the world number 11. “I think I came back very well all the time. It’s very important when you play against those kinds of players.”
In men’s doubles, Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig secured Croatia an Olympic medal by beating New Zealanders Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus 6-2 6-2 for a place in the final.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Clare Fallon and Toby Davis)