Tokyo Olympics: Zverev sorry for sinking Djokovic Golden Slam hopes but says, 'You can't have everything'

By Sports Desk July 30, 2021

Alexander Zverev apologised to Novak Djokovic after ending the Serbian superstar's hopes of a glorious Golden Slam – but joked it was about time someone else landed a major tennis title.

In their Olympic Games semi-final, it seemed Djokovic was cruising through to the gold medal match when he surged a set and a break of serve ahead.

Incredibly, though, Zverev won 10 of 11 games from 3-2 behind in the second set to take the match 1-6 6-3 6-1 and set up a shot at Karen Khachanov in Sunday's final.

Djokovic swept to Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon trophy success before heading to Japan for the Olympics, the fourth leg of a potential sweep of each of the year's majors and the Tokyo 2020 singles title.

He had spoken of it becoming closer to a reality, as he attempted to match Steffi Graf's achievement from 1988, when she followed triumphs at each of the slams by winning in the October 1 final at the Olympics, held in Seoul that year. Graf remains the only player to have pulled off the feat in the same year.

Zverev had other ideas, but he also had sympathy for Djokovic when they exchanged words at the net.

"I told him that he's the greatest of all time, and he will be," Zverev said.

"I know that he was chasing history, chasing the Golden Slam and 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 feel sorry for Novak, but he's won 20 grand slams, 550 Masters Series or whatever, you can't have everything.

"He's the greatest player of all time, he will win the most grand slams out of anybody on tour, but I'm also happy that I'm in the final."

 

Victory at Wimbledon earlier in July took 34-year-old Djokovic to 20 grand slam titles, level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in the history of tennis, and Zverev was lurching towards becoming his latest victim when their Tokyo tussle began in a one-sided manner.

"I was down a set and a break, so I needed to change something. I started playing much more aggressive," Zverev said. "I started to swing through the ball a little bit more, and I tried to dominate that way."

Zverev is assured of at least a silver medal now, while Djokovic faces a bronze medal play-off against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta.

"It's an amazing feeling knowing that you're going to bring the medal back to your house, back home to Germany," Zverev said.

"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 yet there's still one match to go."

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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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    The second seed managed to triumph in his first match since the French Open final defeat to Carlos Alcaraz, eventually winning 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4.

    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.

    "A week ago, I was playing on clay still basically," Zverev said in his on-court interview. "He made it very tough for me, no rhythm at all.

    "That's how grass-court tennis is sometimes and I'm just happy with the win.

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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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