Olympics-Tennis-Sport's profile boosted at Tokyo Games, says Djokovic

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Tennis - Men's Singles - Round 1
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By Sudipto Ganguly and Rozanna Latiff

TOKYO (Reuters) - A day after Naomi Osaka became the first tennis player to light an Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony, Novak Djokovic said the global profile of the sport has been boosted at the Tokyo Games.

Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion and the daughter of a Haitian man and Japanese woman, was revealed as the final Olympic torchbearer on Friday night in a moment that has been described as a reflection of Japan's and the Games' increasing diversity.

The sport's profile in Tokyo has also been raised by the Serbian's quest to become the first man to complete the Golden Slam by winning all four majors as well as Olympic singles gold in the same year.

"It cannot be any better for our sport," Djokovic, the only one of tennis' Big Three to have made the trip to Tokyo after Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal opted to skip the Games, told reporters after his first-round win at Ariake Tennis Park.

"Obviously you don't have Roger and Rafa that are big stars and legends of our sport but still quite a lot of great players, Osaka is the home favorite, and a lot of eyes on her and being at home playing a lot of pressure.

"But it's great for our sport just in general, seeing that there's a lot of attention."

At the athletes' village, world number one Djokovic has been swamped with requests for photographs with competitors in other sports, many of which have been doing the rounds on social media.

A photo of Djokovic doing a perfect split with a pair of Belgian gymnasts even caught the eye of gymnastics great Nadia Comaneci, who complimented https://twitter.com/nadiacomaneci10/status/1418659349262741506 the 34-year-old's form on Twitter.

"Great flexibility I can say @DjokerNole," she wrote along with a string of clapping emojis.

International Tennis Federation president David Haggerty said Osaka's moment at the opening ceremony was "a great showcase" for the sport.

"It was special. I think that might have been the first time that a first-time Olympian had done that," he told Reuters.

"I think it not only showcases Japan but also tennis on a great platform."

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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