Novak Djokovic dream for a singles gold came to a crashing end Friday in Tokyo. The Serb was up a set and a break on Alexander Zverev and just three games from his first gold medal match when everything came unglued in stunning fashion for the Serb.
Djokovic played a poor 3-2 service game to give the break right back and Zverev took full advantage from there riding the momentum to win eight straight games to go up 4-0 in the third and all but put the match away.
Djokovic had break chances early in the third but was denied all four times, and Zverev cruised to a shocking 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 upset win over the world No. 1.
“It’s an amazing feeling, knowing that you’re going to bring the medal back to your house, back home to Germany,” Zverev said after. “It’s incredible beating the best player in the world undoubtedly right now, and in this season.
“It seemed it was impossible to beat him at this event, so I’m very happy right now. But there’s still one match to go.
“I know that he was chasing history, chasing the golden slam and was chasing the Olympics, but in these kind of moments me and Novak are very close. Of course I’m happy that I’ve won, but at the end of the day I know how Novak feels. I told him that he’s the greatest of all time, and he will be.”
Neither player had lost a set coming in but Djokovic had won his last 22 matches and won his last five over the German. The loss was Djokovic’s first since the Rome final and just fourth on the season, all in the best-of-3 format. Today, he started out strong on his serve, but managed to win just two points on his second serve in the final set.
“I was leading a set then a break and he managed to turn the match around, he served huge, was attacking, and I was not getting any free points on my first serves.
“To play someone of his quality, of his level, it’s just too tough to win a match (like that).”
At 34, was this Djokovic’s last chance at a singles gold? He’ll be 37 for the Paris 2024 games which will be held on the red clay at Roland Garros.
Zverev will try to become the first German man to win Olympic singles gold on Sunday when he meets surprise finalist Karen Khachanov.
The hulking Khachanov played a near-perfect semifinal blowing past Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3 behind 15 forehand winners and 10 aces.
Khachanov has now won 9 of his last 10 matches following his quarterfinal Wimbledon run. Carreno Busta had won his last 8 coming into the semifinal.
Tomorrow, Carreno Busta and Djokovic will battle for the bronze medal. Djokovic will go for the singles bronze for a third time in the last four Olympics.
Djokovic’s day wasn’t done. He and Nina Stojanovic returned for mixed doubles action and the duo went down in a tough match to the Russian Olympic Committee tandem of Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev 7-6(4), 7-5. Stojanovic/Djokovic were up a break 4-2 but like the singles, Djokovic couldn’t maintain the lead.
“Tough day, a really tough day. I feel so terrible right now,” Djokovic said.
He and Stojanovic will bid for mixed gold against the Australian’s Ashleigh Barty and John Peers.
SATURDAY TOKYO OLYMPICS SCHEDULE
Centre Court – starting at 15:00
MS BM (1) DJOKOVIC Novak (SRB) vs (6) CARRENO BUSTA Pablo (ESP)
WS BM (15) RYBAKINA Elena (KAZ) vs (4) SVITOLINA Elina (UKR)
WS F (9) BENCIC Belinda (SUI) vs VONDROUSOVA Marketa (CZE)
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