Alexander Zverev will bid to become Germany’s first Olympic tennis gold medalist since Steffi Graf more than three decades ago after his comprehensive comeback against Novak Djokovic at Tokyo on Friday.
Fourth seed Zverev, who had only defeated the Serb twice – the last time more than three years ago – sprang a 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 comeback win on the Serb to bury the Djokovic dream of a Golden Slam.
The only time that target – four grand Slam titles and Olympic gold in the same season – had been reached was by Graf herself at Seoul, 1988.
Despite all the hype surrounding his effort, Djokovic will end his stay at best with a bronze medal should he win a play-off match with Pablo Carreno Busta, matching his bronze from Beijing 13 years ago.
Tommy Haas earned a silver for Germany at the 2000 Sydney Games, losing to Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
“At the net I told Djokovic he is the greatest in the sport,” Zverev said.
“I’m sure he will hold the record for the most Grand Slams, Masters 1000 titles.
“I knew he was playing to achieve the Golden Slam, I feel for him but you cannot win everything.”
Djokovic left the court before the third set, but the pause hardly affected his mindset.
The top seed was barely himself in the third, a runaway for Zverev who had trailed a set and a break in the early going at the Ariake Colosseum in the depressing no-fan environment.
The frustrated Djokovic had to provide his own noise, which he did by occasionally screaming at his coaching box in Serbian as he went down and out to Zverev.
Zverev won eight games in succession from midway through the second set out to 4-1 in the third; his final total was 10 winning games out of the last 11.
Djokovic fluffed a volley into the net to hand Zverev three match points, with the German converting on the second with a smooth winner to the empty corner after barely two hours.
The German will play for the gold medal against Russian Karen Khachanov, who booked his place over Carreno Busta of Spain 6-3, 6-3.
Zverev hit seven aces while breaking Djokovic five times; the German posted 44 winners to a mere 17 for Djokovic, who had steamrolled previous opponents in straight sets.
Zverev termed his success “an amazing feeling, knowing that you’re going to bring the medal back to your house, back home to Germany.
“”It’s incredible beating the best player in the world undoubtedly right now, and in this season.
‘It seemed impossible to beat him at this event, so I’m very happy right now. But there’s still one match to go.”
The German added: “You’re not only playing for yourself, you are playing for the whole country, for the people here, for everybody watching and supporting you.”
The winner who took Djokovic into a deciding set for the first time here, explained part of his strategy.
“I was playing his game, I was rallying with him a lot, so I needed to change it up, I needed to swing through the ball a little bit more.
“I started playing much more aggressive, I tried to dominate that way.”
Main photo:- Sascha Zverev beating Novak Djokovic © ATPTour.com