Tokyo Olympics: Djokovic stunned by Zverev as Golden Slam hopes collapse

By Sports Desk July 30, 2021

Novak Djokovic's hopes of becoming the first man to win a calendar Golden Slam were crushed by a semi-final defeat to Alexander Zverev at the Tokyo Olympics.

From a set and a break up, Djokovic dropped a staggering eight games in a row on his way to a 1-6 6-3 6-1 loss.

The 34-year-old Serbian had been unsure about coming to the Games but was swayed by the pride he takes in representing his country and the tantalising opportunity to add a gold medal to a potential clean sweep of the grand slams.

He has already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, and will head to the US Open in August as a heavy favourite regardless of this setback.

But this was just not Djokovic's day, despite him making a whirlwind start and dominating until the point he broke to lead 3-2 in the second set. From there, Zverev seized control. 

When Djokovic volleyed into the net to make it 3-3, dropping serve for the first time in the match, it looked like just a minor stumble.

Yet suddenly he was struggling for form and did not win another game until he was already 4-0 behind in the deciding set.

Zverev was playing blindingly brilliant tennis and was proving obdurate too, saving four break points in the second game of the third set.

He clinched victory with a blazing backhand winner, and goes on to face Russian Karen Khachanov in the final.

The result means Djokovic, like Roger Federer, seems fated never to win the Olympic singles gold medal. And it leaves Steffi Graf as the only player to ever win a calendar Golden Slam, having done so in 1988 when she added the Seoul Olympics title to her haul of majors.

Russian Olympic Committee's Khachanov fended off Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta with some ease in the first semi-final, with the world number 25 sweeping to a 6-3 6-3 victory in an hour and 19 minutes.

He won 26 of 28 points on first serve to freeze out Carreno Busta, who had only one break point all match and could not take that opportunity.

"It's just a pure happiness, a pleasure to be here to live those moments, these kind of memories will stay forever," Khachanov said.

Khachanov delivered a rock solid display, with his serve and forehand at their best, barely giving his opponent a sniff of an opportunity as the Moscow-born 25-year-old established a firm grip.

"That's the way I prepared, against every opponent you play a little bit differently," Khachanov said. "The final will be another story, another match, another day. I hope it will be the same."

Carreno Busta, who will face Djokovic for the bronze medal, said: "It was not the best match I have played, but Karen was unbelievable today, playing very aggressive and serving really good."

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    The 24-time grand slam champion will target a gold medal for the first time, with his appearance in Paris set to be his fifth at the Olympics.

    Djokovic won a 2008 bronze medal in Beijing after losing to eventual winner Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals before beating James Blake for third place.

    He came fourth at London 2012 after suffering defeats to Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Porto in the final stages and lost early at Rio 2016 before narrowly missing out on a medal in Tokyo three years ago, with Alexander Zverev and Pablo Carreno Busta getting the better of him to end a historic bid for a Golden Slam.

    Djokovic, 37, said in April that winning an elusive gold medal was a priority for him this year, but there was some uncertainty over his participation after he withdrew from the French Open before his quarter-final match this month through injury.

    The Serbian suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and underwent surgery but now looks to be on track to return to Roland-Garros for the Games, with Dusan Lajovic also selected for Serbia.

    "Team Serbia for Paris 2024 got new representatives," the Serbian Olympic Committee announced. 

    "Tennis players Novak Djokovic and Dusan Lajovic fulfilled the requirements, according to the ATP ranking, and confirmed their performance at the Olympic Games."

    Djokovic's involvement in the men's tournament comes as a boost for the Paris Games after some high-profile female players like Aryna Sabalenka, Ons Jabeur and Emma Raducanu announced they would not be participating.

    The Olympic tennis tournaments are scheduled to run from July 27 until August 4.

    It is not yet known whether Djokovic will be able to participate at Wimbledon, which takes place before the Olympics.

    Wimbledon begins on July 1 and Djokovic is a seven-time champion at the event, just one title behind the men's singles record held by Roger Federer. 

    Djokovic lost an epic final to Carlos Alcaraz at last year's Wimbledon.

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    Zverev has twice reached the show-piece at this event, in 2016 and 2017, though acknowledged challenges remain with adapting from the clay-court surfaces at Roland-Garros.

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    That longevity has served well for Murray, who won his first match at the tournament in 2005 and holds a 32-9 record at the ATP 500 grass-court event since.

    "During the match, it is difficult but great reward at the end for the hard work and effort I put into the match," Murray added.

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    The Italian swept the second seed aside with a 1-6 6-4 6-2 victory, teeing up a second-round meeting with Brandon Nakashima.

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