Novak Djokovic’s ‘Golden Slam’ Dreams Are Crushed With Olympic Semifinal Elimination

By Merrit Kennedy NPR

TOKYO — Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic was upset in the men’s Olympic tennis semifinal by Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

The loss on Friday means world No. 1 ranked Djokovic won’t be able to complete an elusive Golden Slam — winning all four Grand Slam tournaments and an Olympic gold medal in a single year. No man has ever done it, but Djokovic put himself in position by winning the first three Grand Slams this year.

In the early stages of the Olympic tournament, his chances still looked good. Djokovic cruised through the first four rounds without losing a set — against the fourth-seeded Zverev, it seemed like that would continue after he won the first set 6-1. A frustrated Zverev smashed his racket on the court several times and pounded a ball into the stands.

“I was playing his game. I was rallying with him a lot, so I needed to change it up,” Zverev said after the match. “I started playing much more aggressive, I started to swing through the ball a little bit more, and yeah, I tried to dominate that way.”

It worked as the match, played in sweltering Tokyo heat, swung Zverev’s way.

He won the second set 6-3 and then dominated the third, 6-1. The final set was a stunner with Djokovic appearing low on energy at a time when tennis fans are used to seeing him stage fierce comebacks.

After Zverev rifled a backhand winner to clinch the victory, he and Djokovic embraced 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, is chasing the Golden Slam and was chasing the Olympics, but in these kind of moments me and Novak are very close. He will win the most Grand Slams out of anybody on tour [Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all have won 20], but I’m also happy that I’m in the final.”

Zverev, who wept after his victory, will play the Russian Olympic Committee’s Karen Khachanov in the gold medal match. Djokovic plays for the bronze against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain.

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