TOKYO — Novak Djokovic came to the Tokyo Olympics aiming for a Golden Slam. He’ll leave without a medal 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 loss 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 singles semifinals. That ended his bid for a Golden Slam, which is winning all four Grand Slam titles and Olympic gold in the same year.
“I just didn’t deliver yesterday and today. The level of tennis dropped. Also due to exhaustion — mentally and physically,” Djokovic said. “I gave it all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much.”
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 into the empty stands — up and over five rows of seats — 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.
“It’s part of, I guess, who I am,” Djokovic said. “I don’t like doing these things. I’m sorry for sending this kind of message but we’re all human beings and sometimes it’s difficult to control your emotions.”
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 Stojanović in the mixed doubles semifinals on Friday, 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 Stojanović were scheduled to face the Australian duo of Ash Barty and John Peers for the bronze medal in mixed doubles. But Djokovic withdrew from that match citing a left shoulder injury — handing the bronze medal to Australia.
“I’m sorry to Nina for not being able to play but my body just gave up,” Djokovic said, adding that he has “several” injuries. “I played under medicines, unbelievable pain and exhaustion.”
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).
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