Tokyo 2020 Tennis: No golden Slam for Djokovic, loses to Zverev in semis

Djokovic, who has a singles bronze from Beijing 2008, tasted defeat in mixed doubles as well, alongside Nina Stojanovic, losing 6-7 (4), 5-7 to Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev.

Serbia's world No. 1 Novak Djokovic lost in three sets to Alexander Zverev of Germany on Friday.   -  Getty Images

Alexander Zverev caused an upset of seismic proportions by coming back from a set and a break down to stun Novak Djokovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 on Friday, and crushed the Serb’s dream of achieving the ‘golden’ Slam, the herculean feat of winning all four Grand Slam singles titles and the Olympic singles gold.

Djokovic, who has a singles bronze from Beijing 2008, tasted defeat in mixed doubles as well, alongside Nina Stojanovic, losing 6-7 (4), 5-7 to Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev. The 34-year-old will now have to recover both mentally and physically and play in not one but two bronze medal playoffs.

Zverev, meanwhile, can become Germany’s first singles gold medallist since Steffi Graf in 1988, and first-ever men’s singles champion when he meets Russian Karen Khachanov, who registered an easy 6-3, 6-3 win over Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. Tommy Haas’ silver at Sydney 2000 is the best finish by a German man till now.

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“It’s an amazing feeling, knowing that you’re going to bring the medal back to your house, back home to Germany,” Zverev told ITF, after the win. “It’s incredible beating undoubtedly the best player in the world right now, and in this season. It seemed it was impossible to beat him at this event, so I’m very happy. But there’s still one match to go.”

“I told him that he’s the greatest of all time, and he will be,” Zverev said of Djokovic. “I know that he was chasing history, chasing the golden slam and was chasing the Olympics, but in these moments, Novak and I are very close. Of course, I’m happy that I’ve won, but at the end of the day I know how Novak feels.”

But for a set-and-a-half, Djokovic was in cruise control and seldom seemed in trouble. The No.4 seeded German looked down and out after losing the first set and Djokovic, fresh off his thrashing of Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals, appeared as dominant as ever. But Zverev recovered, first to halt the momentum at the start of the second set by getting back to 3-3, and then to break again in the eighth game.

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The German served out the set from 0-30 down and it was then that the match turned on its head. Zverev broke twice and raced to a 4-0 lead in the decider and even a bathroom break for Djokovic at the start of the third set had seemingly not helped arrest the momentum.

The third break of serve brought the World no.5 ever closer to victory, with a trademark backhand winner sealing the deal on the very first match point.

In doubles, the top seeded Croatian pair of Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic defeated compatriots Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig 6-4, 3-6, [10-6] to win the Balkan country’s first-ever Olympic tennis gold. The victory capped a fine month of Mektic and Pavic, who had also combined to clinch the trophy at Wimbledon.

The Kiwi duo of Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus overcame Americans Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren 7-6(3) 6-2 in the bronze medal playoff to secure independent New Zealand’s first-ever tennis medal.

In the mixed doubles gold medal match, the Vesnina-Karatsev pair will meet fellow Russians Andrey Rublev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who beat Aussies John Peers and Ash Barty 5-7, 6-4, [13-11].

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