World No. 1 Novak Djokovic lost the bronze-medal match in men’s singles at the Olympics, bowing out to Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4, 6-7 (8-6), 6-3 at the Ariake Tennis Park on Saturday.
Djokovic had arrived in Tokyo trying to become the first man to have a Golden Slam. He had already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in 2021 and was trying to complete the rare phenomena with a gold medal at the Olympics followed by the US Open title, which starts at the end of August.
At the Olympics, where big-ticket players like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were not playing, it gave Djokovic his best chance of completing a Golden Slam. With the dream shattered, his next opportunity at an Olympics gold will now come in Paris 2024. He will be 37 by then.
Busta, ranked 12th in the world, won the first set 6-4. Djokovic made a comeback to clinch the second set 7-6 (8-6) via a tie-breaker and take the match into the decider. He even saved a match point in the second set.
After squandering a match point at 6-5 in the second set tie-breaker, Busta rallied hard in the third set. But his Serbian opponent went on to save four match points in the third set.
In between, Djokovic’s frustrations started to grow. Early in the third set, when he failed to break Busta, he threw one racquet into the empty stands at 0-1. When down at 0-3, he smashed another racquet against the net post.
In the end, the 30-year-old Busta fought back to win the third set 6-3, thanks to a forehand netted by Djokovic, and clinched the bronze medal in two hours and 49 minutes.
All is still not over for Djokovic at the Olympics. He can still win a bronze medal in the mixed doubles alongside Nina Stojanovic later in the day against Ashleigh Barty and John Peers of Australia.