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Zverev ends Djokovic’s Golden Slam hopes with comeback win at Olympics

Serbia's Novak Djokovic (R) congratulates Germany's Alexander Zverev for winning their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men's singles semifinal tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. (Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP)
Germany’s Alexander Zverev celebrates beating Serbia’s Novak Djokovic. (AFP)

TOKYO (AFP) – Novak Djokovic’s bid for a calendar Golden Grand Slam was dramatically ended by Alexander Zverev in the Olympics men’s singles semi-finals on Friday, with the world number one saying the loss had left him feeling “so terrible right now”.

Djokovic collapsed from a set and a break ahead as German fourth seed Zverev won 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to set up a Sunday final against Russian Karen Khachanov.

“Tough day, a really tough day,” said the 34-year-old Djokovic who has never won the Olympic singles title.

The Serbian star had already captured the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon trophies this year and needed Olympic gold and the US Open crown to emulate Steffi Graf, who achieved the feat in 1988, by winning the Golden Slam.

But his attempt to make history came to a close as Zverev powered 30 winners past the usually impregnable Djokovic in a stunning display.

“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,” bemoaned the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

“And I missed a lot of first serves from 3-2 in the second. To play someone of his quality, of his level, it’s just too tough to win a match.”

It was yet more heartbreak for Djokovic at the Olympics, where his best result is a bronze medal in 2008.

He lost to eventual winner Andy Murray in the semi-finals in London nine years ago, and was in tears after a first-round exit to Juan Martin del Potro at the 2016 Rio Games.

Zverev is looking to become the first German to claim singles gold since Graf in Seoul after winning 10 of the last 11 games against Djokovic.

“It’s incredible beating the best player in the world undoubtedly right now and in this season,” said the world number five.

Djokovic’s second chance to win a gold medal also evaporated later Friday, as he and Nina Stojanovic lost their mixed doubles semi-final to Aslan Karatsev and Elena Vesnina 7-6 (7/4), 7-5.

He could still win two bronze medals, with a match against Pablo Carreno Busta to come on Saturday before he teams up with Stojanovic to take on Australians Ashleigh Barty and John Peers.

Khachanov, a former top-10 player who has struggled for consistency in the last three seasons, produced an impressive display earlier to dispatch Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3.

Khachanov is bidding to become the first Russian champion in the men’s singles since Yevgeny Kafelnikov struck gold in Sydney 21 years ago.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic won the men’s doubles title with a 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 victory over fellow Croatians Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig, while Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus became New Zealand’s first Olympic tennis medalists for 109 years by taking the bronze.

Women’s world number one Barty’s third and final attempt to win a gold medal was ended after defeat alongside Peers in the mixed doubles semis against Russians Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev.

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Written by Tempo Desk

Tempo 31 July 2021, Saturday issue

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