Owner of a 34-3 record on the circuit and four titles, including three Grand Slams, this year, Novak Djokovic had transferred his big moment to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There, the world number 1 had not lost not a set. Until he lost them at the moment when he needed to be most accurate: when he had the medals in front of him.
The Serbian, who dreamed of the Golden Slam in Japan, had had a Black Friday, with defeats in the semifinals of the men’s singles and mixed doubles, which prevented him from fulfilling that desire for the gold medal. And this Saturday that negative streak was extended to the match for the Olympic bronze.
Before an unrecognizable Djokovic, the Spanish Pablo Carreño (11th ATP) won 6-4, 6-7 (6) and 6-3 to achieve the 13th medal of Spanish tennis in the Olympic Games and the fourth in the individual tournament male after those won by Jordi Arrese (silver in 1992), Sergi Bruguera (silver in 1996) and Rafael Nadal (gold in 2008).
The emotion of the Spanish Carreño as Djokovic retires without a medal. Photo Marijan Murat / dpa
Perhaps still affected by the surprising defeat against Alexander Zverev – losing eight consecutive games when he had the match on track in the second set -, by fatigue (it was his 9th game in a week, including mixed doubles, and the 7th in just 72 hours) and by the scorching sun in the early afternoon, Djokovic started the match unrecognizable: unable to score first serves (only 40%) and 10 unforced errors in the first set.
With those numbers it is almost impossible to win at this level and, logically, Carreño took advantage of it to sign up the first round, without playing an extraordinary game either, since by returning the ball and waiting for the Serbian’s failure he had enough in many moments to win the point.
In the second set, Djokovic improved his service and that allowed him to equalize the match and be two breaks from forcing the third set (0-30 and 5-4 in favor), but Carreño reacted and took the outcome to the tie break, where He would also have a match ball, but he let it escape and the Serbian did not forgive to equalize the match.
Despite winning the set, Djokovic still did not play at his level and when Carreño broke his serve and went 3-0 in the third set, the Serbian’s temperament played a trick on him again: first he threw his racket to the stands (empty) after missing a ball and then smashed his racket after losing a game against the net post.
It should be remembered that last year in the round of 16 of the US Open, Djokovic was already disqualified for hitting a chair umpire in a match against Carreño, who treasured that as the only victory he had in five games against Djokovic.
Confident after being ahead on the scoreboard in the third set, Carreño played his best tennis, with deep blows to the lines and moving the Serbian from one side of the court to the other until he was exhausted and took the long-awaited medal after performing a superb tournament, in which he has beaten the top two in the world ranking, Djokovic and Russian Daniil Medvedev (in the quarterfinals), and only lost in the semifinals against fellow Russian Karen Khachanov.
It is the second loss in a row for a Djokovic who seemed unbeatable this season and who was looking to continue to aspire to the Golden Slam with a gold in Tokyo, but will leave the Japanese capital without metal, at least in the individual tournament.
He still has a chance to win a medal, pairing with compatriot Nina Stojanovic, in the bronze medal match that he will now play against Australians Ashleigh Barty and John Peers.
With information from AFP