Novak Djokovic’s pursuit of the golden slam has come to an end as he suffered a startling collapse against Alexander Zverev before eventually losing 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the semi-final of the Tokyo Games.
Zverev, the fourth seed, will face Karen Khachanov in the gold-medal match after the Russian Olympic Committee athlete defeated Pablo Carreño Busta 6-3, 6-3.
Djokovic, the world No 1, had enjoyed a productive week up until Friday, reaching the singles semi-final with a virtuoso quarter-final display against Kei Nishikori as he won 6-2, 6-0. He then reached the mixed doubles semi-final alongside Nina Stojanovic, offering himself the chance of winning two medals.
He seemed to be moving at a similar pace on Friday afternoon as he breezed through the first set 6-1 before breaking serve at 2-2 to generate the first break of the second set. But Djokovic immediately lost his serve to love, along with 12 of the following 13 points, and it began a downward spiral that he was unable to recover from.
From his set and break lead, Djokovic lost eight games in a row to trail 0-4 in the third set with a double break to the German. As Djokovic floundered, his forehand betraying him, he unsuccessfully resorted to flitting to the net and shortening points.
Across the net, each mini-battle won by Zverev imbued him with more confidence as he served well on big points and confidently hit through his forehand. As Djokovic’s shoulders slumped at the close, Zverev nailed a backhand down the line winner to hand Djokovic his first defeat in 23 matches.
Djokovic will face Carreño Busta in the bronze medal match before his attention shifts to the US Open where he will be attempting to win his fourth grand slam title of the year. His chances of winning the Olympic singles gold medal he has always wanted now appear more distant than ever.