There will be no Golden Slam for Novak Djokovic after all.
The world’s No. 1 tennis player, who had appeared untouchable since arriving at the Tokyo Olympics in pursuit of a gold medal, shockingly fell apart in the men’s semifinals Friday and lost to No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in three sets: 1-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Djokovic, who won the first three Grand Slam titles of 2021, was aiming to add a gold medal before he heads to the U.S. Open in a month, potentially setting him up to be the first male player to win those five huge prizes in the same calendar year. Only Steffi Graf in 1988 had accomplished such a feat.
Until midway through the second set Friday, there was little to suggest that Djokovic would go off track so badly. Not only had he cruised through his first four opponents in Tokyo, he dominated Zverev for the first hour of the match and was up a break in the second at 3-2 when things took a 180-degree turn.
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Almost out of nowhere, Zverev crushed a series of backhands to get the break back. But instead of digging in, as tennis fans have seen Djokovic do so many times in big matches, Zverev completely took over the match and finished off the second set by winning 17 of the final 21 points.
Djokovic failed to regain his momentum in the third, struggling with his first serve and getting broken twice to fall behind 4-0 before stopping Zverev’s streak of eight straight games. Ultimately, Zverev finished the match with a third break of serve, crushing a backhand winner down the line on match point and covering his face with his hands in disbelief.https://800d180c54834b46583b424fe3a2021f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Zverev will play Karen Khachanov of Russia in Sunday’s men’s final. Neither of them have won a major title, though Zverev came close last fall at the U.S. Open, losing to Dominic Thiem in a fifth set tiebreak.
Djokovic will play Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, trying to add a second bronze medal in singles to the one he captured in 2008. At 34, it’s conceivable Djokovic could make one more run at a gold medal in Paris in 2024. But for now, the only significant prize in tennis he hasn’t won remains elusive
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