World number one Novak Djokovic exited the Tokyo Games on Saturday without a medal for the third Olympics in a row, withdrawing from his mixed doubles contest with a shoulder injury shortly after losing the men’s singles bronze to Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
Carreno Busta triumphed 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 over a listless Novak Djokovic, a day after the Serbian was stopped in his bid to complete a historic “Golden Slam.”
The world number one had arrived in Tokyo aiming to become the first man to win all four majors and an Olympic gold medal in the same calendar year, after securing victories at the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon.
But that quest came to an end after he was beaten by fifth-ranked German Alexander Zverev in Friday’s semi-final.
Djokovic’s withdrawal, along with partner Nina Stojanovic, on Saturday resulted in an automatic bronze for Australian pair Ash Barty and John Peers, the first tennis medal for their country since 2004.
“I do have a regret for not winning a medal for my country and opportunities missed both in mixed doubles and singles and, yeah, I just didn’t deliver yesterday and today,” Djokovic told reporters.
“The level of tennis dropped also due to exhaustion, you know, mentally and physically.”
Saturday’s loss to Carreno Busta marks Djokovic’s third appearance and second defeat in a singles bronze medal match. He won the bronze at the Beijing Games in 2008 before losing to Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro in London four years later.
Del Potro beat him again in the first round at the Rio Games in 2016.
On Saturday, Carreno Busta claimed the opening set as the Serbian struggled to start the match, missing five break point opportunities.
The second set was a much closer affair as Djokovic’s levels improved, saving one match point and edging out the Spaniard in a roller-coaster tie-break.
But 11th-ranked Carreno Busta came back strong, taking the first three games in the decider. Djokovic fought off four more match points but could not hold on as the Spaniard served out the victory.
‘Giant-killer Carreno Busta’
Carreno Busta’s win capped a giant-killing week for the 30-year-old, after he took down world number two Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals. He lost to Karen Khachanov of the Russian Olympic Committee in the following round.
“This has been an exceptional match… This is even more incredible than winning a tournament. I have won the Davis Cup, gone far in other tournaments but winning an Olympic medal is amazing. Words fail me.” said Carreno Busta.
“When Novak also lost (in the semis) and I saw that I had to play the world number one for the medal, I had my doubts. But I slept like I haven’t slept this past week in Tokyo.”
His victory also extends Spain’s remarkable record in the Olympics Games, having secured a tennis medal at every Games since 1988 apart from London 2012.
In the women’s doubles, Brazilians Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani saved four match points against Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina of the Russian Olympic Committee to snatch the Olympic women’s doubles bronze medal. It was Brazil’s first medal in tennis.
— Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christian Radnedge