at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London - Novak Djokovic insisted winning an Olympic gold medal would mean as much as any of his Grand Slam titles after the Serb moved into the third round with a ruthless 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of three-time Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick on Tuesday.
While Roger Federer is the gold medal favourite after his recent Wimbledon triumph, Djokovic, a bronze medallist at the 2008 Games in Beijing, also has his sights firmly set on the top prize.
Djokovic has won five Grand Slams, including a victory at Wimbledon last year that fulfilled a childhood dream, but taking a gold medal back to Serbia would be the equal of those triumphs for the 25-year-old.
“It would mean a lot to me. Of course it would be right up there with all the Grand Slams that I would because I'm playing for my country,” Djokovic said.
“That's something that we as tennis players don't get to experience too much because we're individual athletes.
“We are proud to wear the shirts and tracksuits with the name of our country.
“All the Serbian tennis players are staying in the same house here and we support each other.
“We want to win as many medals as possible. That's the main goal for all the athletes who are representing Serbia.”
On the evidence of this brutal demolition of Roddick in 54 minutes under the Centre Court roof, Djokovic is approaching peak form again after the disappointment of losing to Federer in the Wimbledon semi-finals.
“It was a perfect match in every sense,” Djokovic added. “I served many aces and returned a lot of balls to make him play. That was the tactics and to see my serve working so well is really encouraging.”
Next up for Djokovic is a last 16 clash at Wimbledon with Australia's Lleyton Hewitt.
Roddick, playing in his first Olympics since Athens in 2004 after missing Beijing, hasn't been past the third round in his three Grand Slam appearances this year after struggling with a series of injuries.
But he has always flourished on Wimbledon's grass courts and Djokovic knew he would have to be at his best to avoid a premature exit.
Djokovic was on the attack from the start and landed the first blow when he broke for a 4-2 lead.
That seemed to shatter Roddick's spirit. The American's usually formidable serve was being picked apart by Djokovic and a series of masterful returns secured another break to take the set.
Djokovic had no intention of giving Roddick any breathing space and he broke again in the second game of the second set with a sublime lob that caught the American flat-footed at the net.
When Roddick misjudged a Djokovic return to concede another break in the sixth game it was all over for the former world number one. - Sapa-AFP