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No Gold For Novak

Novak Djokovic of Serbia leaves the court after his 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 loss to Alexander Zverev of Germany at the Men’s Singles Semifinal Tennis events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo, Japan, 30 July 2021. EPA-EFE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

Alexander Zverev rode his wrecking ball serve to a monumental Olympic upset.

Zverev streaked through 10 of the last 11 games shocking Novak Djokovic 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 to power into the Tokyo Olympics gold-medal match and shatter the top-seeded Serbian’s Golden Grand Slam dream.

The fourth-seeded Zverev snapped Djokovic’s 22-match winning streak in stunning style ensuring his compatriot, Hall of Famer Steffi Graf, will still stand alone as the only player in history to capture the Golden Grand Slam winning all four Grand Slam singles crowns and the Olympic gold medal in the same season. Only Graf, her husband, Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams have completed the career Golden Grand Slam.

The world No. 1 built a one-set, 3-2 lead only to see Zverev shift to a higher gear and steamroll the Serbian with heavy drives and menacing serve. 
Playing declarative first-strike tennis empowered Zverev, who hit 21 more winners—37 to 16—and unleashed an eight-game surge transforming a 1-6, 2-3 deficit into a 4-0 lead in the final set. Zverev zapped seven aces against one double fault erupting with some of his most explosive serving as he fought off four break points in a crucial hold to go up 2-0 in the final set.

“He just upped his level and I just wasn’t serving anymore as well as I did for a set and a half and he didn’t miss too many first serves from the 2-3 down in the second set all the way to the last point,” Djokovic told Olympic Channel’s Trenni Kusnierek. “He was serving huge and taking every opportunity from the back of the court to attack.

“He just wasn’t missing at all. He didn’t give me any free points. I didn’t get any free points on my serve. That’s tennis at the highest level.”

Facing the prospect of a sixth straight loss to the world No. 1, Zverev gave himself some simple advice: Go hard or go home.

“I just told myself I’m gonna swing at the ball,” Zverev told Olympic Channel’s Trenni Kusnierek. “Before I was trying to play nice tennis where I was trying to outlast Novak, which you can’t really do on a hard court, especially when he’s playing well.  “So after that I thought I’m gonna use my power and try to hit the ball as hard as I can and it worked out well.”

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during the Men’s Singles Semifinal against Alexander Zverev of Germany at the Tennis events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Coliseum in? Tokyo, Japan, 30 July 2021. EPA-EFE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

Sporting a pair of gold chains around his neck, Zverev will try to become the first German gold-medal singles champion since Graf in that wondrous 1988 season and the first Geman man to win singles gold when he faces 12th-seeded Karen Khachanov in Sunday’s final.

In today’s first semifinal, Khachanov cracked 10 aces against only nine double faults sweeping sixth-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3 to ensure he will win a medal. Dictating play on serve, Khachanov won 26 of 28 first-serve points in a one hour, 19-minute triumph.

It was a day of double agony for Djokovic, who returned to court partnering Nina Stojanovic in mixed doubles. The pair played for a shot at the gold-medal match but fell to Aslan Karatsev and Elena Vesnina 7-6(4), 7-5.

Instead of realizing the golden dream, Djokovic will settle for a pair of bronze-medal matches tomorrow, including the day’s first bronze clash against Carreno Busta.

“Tough day; that’s sport,” Djokovic said. “Obviously playing at the Olympics and reaching the semis in singles and mixed we have high hopes to at least win one to guarantee the one medal for the country.

“It wasn’t to be today. Two very tough exhausting matches both physically and mentally. I will try to do my best to rejuvenate for tomorrow.”