The men's singles competition at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, which begins on Saturday, wears a depleted look. Almost half of the top-50 players, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have pulled out due to varied reasons.
But despite the spate of high-profile withdrawals, there are still a few stars who will be looking to earn glory for their country. World no. 1 Novak Djokovic and two-time defending champion Andy Murray headline the Tokyo Olympics 2020 field, while younger players like Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are present too.
Djokovic, who has won three Majors this year, is looking to become the first player in 33 years to win the Calendar Golden Slam. That feat has only ever been achieved once in the history of tennis - by Steffi Graf in 1988.
The Serb is the overwhelming favorite for the gold medal, but there are a number of dangerous floaters who could throw a spanner in his hopes of creating history. Most of these young challengers have had decent campaigns this year, and are poised for a deep run in Tokyo.
So without further ado, let's have a look at how the men's singles draw is likely to unfold.
1st Quarter: Novak Djokovic launches bid to win maiden gold
Top seeds: (1) Novak Djokovic, (5) Andrey Rublev, (10) Gael Monfils, (16) Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
Expected quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic vs Andrey Rublev
Dark horse: Kei Nishikori
Analysis: Fresh off winning his sixth Wimbledon title and drawing level with Federer and Nadal atop the all-time Grand Slam leaderboard, Novak Djokovic is a man on a mission in Tokyo.
The top seed opens his campaign for a maiden Olympics gold medal against Bolivia's Hugo Dellien. Djokovic, who has never met the World No. 139 before, is expected to move into the next round without much trouble.
For a place in the third round, the Serb could meet the 49th-ranked Jan-Lennard Struff, who has taken only one set off Djokovic in five previous meetings. But Struff's big serve and groundstrokes would be something the World No. 1 will need to be wary of, should this match-up materialise.
If the seedings hold true, Djokovic is projected to meet Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, whom the Serb beat for the loss of just three games in their lone previous meeting, in the third round. Lorenzo Musetti is another player who could be on a colission course with the top seed in this round.
The Italian teenager famously took two sets off Djokovic in the fourth round at Roland Garros this year before fading away.
One of 10th seed Gael Monfils or fifth seed Andrey Rublev is the projected quarterfinal opponent for Djokovic. While the recently-married Monfils hasn't played much this year, Rublev is one of the form players on tour.
The Russian has won two more matches than Djokovic in 2021, but is yet to lock horns with the Serb.
Rublev opens his campaign against the dangerous Kei Nishikori, and is expected to meet Monfils in the third round. Local boy Nishikori, along with John Millman, are two dangerous floaters in this section of the draw; they could cause some damage if they get going.
First-round match to watch: Andrey Rublev vs Kei Nishikori
Predicted quarterfinal result: Novak Djokovic def. Andrey Rublev
2nd Quarter: Alexander Zverev looks to make a splash in Tokyo
Top seeds: (4) Alexander Zverev, (7) Hubert Hurkacz, (11) Aslan Karatsev, (13) Lorenzo Sonego
Expected quarterfinal: Alexander Zverev vs Hubert Hurkacz
Dark horse: Marton Fucsovics
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev has had a strong 2021 campaign, notwithstanding his loss to Felix Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round at Wimbledon. The World No. 5 has won titles in Acapulco and Madrid this year, and also made the quaterfinals at the Australian Open and the semifinals at Roland Garros.
Making his debut at the Olympics, Zverev opens his campaign against 37-year-old Yen-Hsun Lu. He has split his two career meetings with the 573rd-ranked Lu, but the pair haven't met since Miami 2017.
Daniel Elahi of Colombia is a possible second-round opponent, whom Zverev has never met before. But the German should have very few problems if this match-up materializes.
13th seed Lorenzo Sonego is the projected opponent of Zverev in the third round. The latter prevailed in the pair's lone prior meeting at Monte Carlo in straight sets, but Sonego could present a stiffer challenge on hardcourt.
The Italian is coming off a fourth-round loss to Roger Federer at Wimbledon, and he also won the title in Cagliari earlier this year.
Should Zverev progress past the third round, 11th-seed Aslan Karatsev (whom he has never met before) and seventh-seed Hubert Hurkacz (1-0 h2h) are possible opponents for a place in the last four.
Karatsev has had a career-best season, to say the least. He reached the semifinal on his Major debut at the Australian Open, winning eight consecutive matches (including qualifiers) - one more than eventual champion Djokovic. A few weeks after that, Karatsev won his first singles title in Dubai and beat Djokovic in the Belgrade semis.
Meanwhile, Wimbledon semifinalist Hubert Hurkacz opens against Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. Hurkacz ended a six-match losing streak at Wimbledon, where he also beat eight-time champion Roger Federer in straight sets to make his first Major semifinal.
Earlier in the year, Hubert won titles at Delray Beach and Miami, the latter of which was his first at a Masters 1000 tournament.
Nicoloz Basilashvili and Marton Fucsovics are two dangerous floaters in this section of the draw. Zverev, who has a 2-1 head-to-head record against Basilashvili, could meet the Georgian in the third round. Zverev could also meet Fucsovics, who made the last eight at Wimbledon, in the quarterfinal; the German has never locked horns with Fucsovics before.
First-round match to watch: Hubert Hurkacz vs Marton Fucsovics
Predicted quarterfinal result: Alexander Zverev def. Hubert Hurkacz
3rd Quarter: Stefanos Tsitsipas looking to regroup after a couple of disappointing losses
Top seeds: (3) Stefanos Tsitsipas, (8) Diego Schwartzman, (12) Karen Khachanov, (14) Ugo Humbert
Expected quarterfinal: Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Diego Schwartzman
Dark horse: Ugo Humbert
Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has had a strong 2021, winning 40 of his 51 matches - including titles in Monte Carlo and Lyon. The 22-year-old has performed well at the big tournaments this year, having reached the Australian Open semis for the second time in three years and also his maiden Major final at Roland Garros.
But Tsitsipas is coming off a shock first-round loss to Frances Tiafoe at Wimbledon and an underwhelming quarterfinal defeat to Filip Krajinovic at Hamburg. He will look to get back to winning ways when he takes on German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber in the Tokyo first round.
The young Greek has won both his two meetings with Kohlschreiber, and should be expected to make it three in three at Tokyo. The match, however, will likely be a spectacular affair given Kohlchreiber's shot-making ability.
In the second round, Tsitsipas is scheduled to run into Tiafoe again. The American levelled the pair's head-to-head rivalry at one apiece with his Wimbledon win, but he has had an inconsistent season overall (14-13 win-loss record). Tsitsipas will fancy his chances of emerging victorious should this match-up materialise.
The left-handed Ugo Humbert, who is seeded 14th at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, opens his campaign against Pablo Andujar. Humbert is slated to meet Tstisipas in the third round.
The Frenchman won his lone meeting with the Greek at the 2020 Paris Masters, but might struggle to repeat that result on the slower surface in Tokyo.
Diego Schwartzman and Karen Khachanav are possible quarterfinal opponents for Tsitsipas. Schwartzman, who missed the Rio Olympics, opens his campaign against Peru's Juan Pablo Varillas. The Argentine is 1-1 in his head-to-head against Tsitsipas, but only 18-12 for the season.
Meanwhile Khachanov, who opens his campaign against Yoshihito Nishioka, has lost all of his three previous meetings with Tsitispas. But the Russian, if he reaches the last eight, could provide a stern test to Tsitsipas.
First-round match to watch: Stefanos Tsitispas vs Philipp Kohlschreiber
Predicted quarterfinal result: Stefanos Tsitispas def. Karen Khachanov
4th Quarter: Andy Murray looking for improbable three-peat, Daniil Medvedev eyes deep run
Top seeds: (2) Daniil Medvedev, (6) Pablo Carreno Busta, (9) Felix Auger-Aliassime, (15) Fabio Fognini
Expected quarterfinal: Daniil Medvedev vs Pablo Carreno Busta
Dark horse: Andy Murray
Daniil Medvedev remains one of the best players on tour despite cooling off a bit after reaching his second Major final at the Australian Open. He won titles in Marseille and Mallorca before losing to Hurkacz in five sets in the Wimbledon Round of 16.
The Russian, seeded second at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, opens his campaign against Alexander Bublik; Medvedev has beaten the Kazakh in both of their two previous meetings. Next up for the 25-year-old could be India's Sumit Nagal or Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin, both of whom would be serious underdogs.
Medvedev could face Fabio Fognini in the third round, and possibly one of Felix Auger-Aliassime or Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals. Auger-Aliassime, however, has an extremely tough first-round match - against two-time Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray.
Murray seemed back to his old self at Wimbledon, where he reached the third round. The Scot would be eager to give his best in Tokyo, and the best-of-three format means that his hip issues could be less of a factor.
Carreno Busta, meanwhile, opens against Tennys Sandgren, and could face Marin Cilic in the second round. Both of those matches could be tough, but the Spaniard is riding a wave of momentum right now, having just won his maiden 500 title at Hamburg.
First-round match to watch: Andy Murray vs Felix Auger-Aliassime
Predicted quarterfinal result: Daniil Medvedev def. Pablo Carreno Busta
Novak Djokovic def. Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev def. Stefanos Tsitsipas
Prediction for the final
Novak Djokovic def. Daniil Medvedev