TOKYO: Novak Djokovic came to the Tokyo Olympics aiming for a Golden Slam. He’ll leave without a medal — in singles, at least — and will need some time to recover from a draining performance in extreme conditions that didn’t meet expectations.
The top-ranked Djokovic lost his cool and abused his racket several times during a 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 defeat to Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain in the bronze-medal match of the tennis tournament on Saturday.
It was Djokovic’s third defeat in two days and it came less than 24 hours after he was beaten by Alexander Zverev of Germany in the semifinals. That ended his bid for a Golden Slam, which is winning all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold in the same year.
Djokovic’s frustration was evident in his on-court behavior as the match wore on.
Having saved a match point in the second-set tiebreaker, Djokovic threw his racket over five rows of seats into the stands after he couldn’t get to a stop-volley winner from Carreño Busta to conclude a long rally in the opening game of the third.
A couple of games later, when Carreño Busta had broken his serve to take control of the decisive set, Djokovic again lost his cool and slammed his racket into the net post during a change of ends. He then picked up the mangled racket and tossed it into the photographers’ pit.
Djokovic received a verbal warning for the net-post incident, but Carreño Busta appeared to question the chair umpire as to why it wasn’t a point penalty since it was the second instance of racket abuse. The umpire, however, hadn't warned Djokovic for the first incident.
Djokovic, who also lost with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic in the mixed doubles semifinals on Friday, has played a total of 16 sets over seven matches in four days.
He was due back on court later Saturday for one final match in Tokyo. He and Stojanovic were to face the Australian duo of Ash Barty and John Peers for the bronze medal in mixed doubles.
As it’s been virtually all week at the Ariake Tennis Park, heat was a major factor, with the temperature soaring to 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) and stifling humidity making it feel like 100 degrees F (38 degrees C).
Both Djokovic and Carreño Busta put ice bags on their necks during changeovers. Djokovic also grabbed a rubber tube blowing cool air and stuck it up his shirt.
Also later, Belinda Bencic of Switzerland plays Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the women’s singles gold-medal match.
Meanwhile, Carreño Busta will have to wait until Sunday to be awarded his bronze medal, after Zverev plays Karen Khachanov of ROC in the men’s final. That, of course, was the match that Djokovic came expecting to play in.
Djokovic won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon this year and needed the Olympic and U.S. Open titles to complete the Golden Slam collection.
Steffi Graf in 1988 remains the only tennis player to achieve the Golden Slam. But Djokovic can still go after the calendar-year Grand Slam by winning the U.S. Open — something no man has accomplished since Rod Laver in 1969.
The U.S. Open starts in a month.