Novak Djokovic’s dream of completing a “Golden Slam” came crashing down in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, when he was defeated by Germany’s Alexander Zverev.
The world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic, won the first set 6-1 but dropped the next two 3-6, 1-6. Djokovic had not lost a set in Olympic play prior to the second.
The 34-year-old Serbian was in good shape to complete the rare Golden Slam, which involves winning all four Grand Slam tournaments as well as Olympic gold in the same calendar year. Only one person has ever done it: Steffi Graf in 1988.
Djokovic stormed out to a big lead in the first set, displaying the same unstoppable form he’d displayed throughout the tournament this week.
After falling behind by a break in the second set, Zverev vented his rage by slamming a ball into the mostly empty stands. At that point, the 24-year-old German, ranked No. 5 in the world, turned the tables, winning four games in a row with his powerful serve and lethal forehand to tie the match at one set apiece.
Zverev’s dominance continued in the third set, as he raced to a 4-0 lead before sealing the victory with a clean backhand winner after just over two hours of play. The finalist for the 2020 U.S. Open finished the match with 43 winners to Djokovic’s 18.
Zverev lingered on his bench on the sidelines for several minutes after the match, his face buried in a towel.
Zverev advances to the gold medal match, where he will face Karen Khachanov of the Russian Olympic Committee on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, Khachanov defeated Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 6-3, 6-3.
Djokovic has never won an Olympic gold medal. He took the bronze at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, was beaten in the bronze medal match at the 2012 Games in London and lost in the first round four years later in Rio de Janeiro. He will play Busta in the bronze medal match.
Although Djokovic’s Golden Slam dreams were dashed on Friday, he still has a chance to complete the rare Grand Slam if he wins the US Open in September. He won the Australian Open in February, the French Open in June, and the Wimbledon Championships earlier this month.
Since Rod Laver of Australia in 1969, no man has won a calendar Grand Slam in men’s tennis.
A win in New York City would also give Djokovic his 21st Grand Slam trophy, the most in men’s tennis history. He is currently tied with rivals Roger Federer of Switzerland and Rafael Nadal of Spain for the most major titles (20).
Fireworks conclude the Opening Ceremony after the lighting of the Olympic Flame for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on Friday. Photo by Mike Theiler