Alexander Zverev produced a sensational comeback to surge into the men’s singles final and comprehensively end Novak Djokovic’s bid for the Golden Slam at Tokyo 2020.
The German looked forlorn at a set and a break down but recovered to clinch a remarkable 1-6 6-3 6-1 victory in two hours and three minutes and will now meet ROC’s Karen Khachanov in Sunday’s gold medal match.
The defeat was a bitter pill for Djokovic who had been hoping to remain on course to become the only man ever to win all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold in the same year. He could yet finish 2021 with a quartet of majors if he succeeds at the US Open but this collapse will sting for some time to come.
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Zverev made an attacking start but could not convert a break point in the first game of the match and Djokovic stood tall before snaring the initiative.
The world number one showcased all off his defensive brilliance on the stretch before grabbing control of a bruising rally to guide a sublime crosscourt pass beyond the German to break in game four.
It was part of a purple patch from the 20-time Grand Slam champion as he charged through the next three games to claim the opener for a breadstick in just 37 minutes, serving down a third ace of the contest on his second set point.
Huge shock as Zverev dashes Djokovic's Golden Slam hopes to reach final
Zverev needed to respond and was much more competitive in Set 2 but once again he could not convert an early break point. Djokovic let out one of those familiar roars to release tension on his way to a tough hold for 2-2 and used that energy to once again up the ante on his return game. A sizzling riposte landed low at Zverev’s feet and saw the frustrated German cough up his serve. However, this time he hit straight back and took advantage of a poor service game from his opponent to break to love and level at 3-3.
The number four seed suddenly hit top form and earned the chance to serve for the set when he broke again when Djokovic’s weak drop shot dumped into the net. The German felt the pressure serving for it at deuce but an ace and a brutal crosscourt forehand saw him force the decider on his second set point.
Zverev continued to carry the momentum in Set 3 and made it five games in a row with an immediate break. Djokovic increased the heat to try and turn the tide his way but the number four seed managed to stave off four break points to eventually consolidate for a 2-0 lead.
Another break left the world number one screaming in dismay in his native tongue as his dream of Olympic gold collapsed around him. Zverev continued to serve big when it mattered to maintain his cushion and eventually clinched a famous win to leave Djokovic to focus on the consolation of a bronze medal match in both the singles and the mixed doubles. Indeed, Djokovic also lost his second semi final of the day alongside Nina Stojanovic 7-6 7-5 to ROC's Aslan Karatsev and Elena Vesnina.
Earlier, Khachanov earned his shot at gold medal glory after comfortably defeating number six seed Pablo Carreno Busta in the first of the men’s singles semi finals.
The ROC athlete produced an authoritative display to vanquish the Spaniard 6-3 6-3 in one hour and 19 minutes.
Carreno Busta came into the contest as the favourite having upset number two seed, Daniil Medvedev in the last eight, but he struggled to make an impact in what proved to be a one-sided contest.
Khachanov broke early in the first set and then again to clinch it in game nine with Carreno Busta unable to muster a chance of his own in an opener firmly dominated by the ROC star.
It was a similar pattern in the second set with Khachanov, the world number 25, claiming the all-important break in game six before sealing a win, in which he crashed down 10 aces, with a scorching forehand winner up the line.
Carreno Busta will now face Djokovic in the bronze medal match.
Meanwhile, in the all-Croatian men’s doubles final, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic struck gold with a three-set success over Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig. The top seeds came through 6-4 3-6 10-6 in a championship tie-break to condemn the pair that saw off GB’s Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury to silver.
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