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Tennis great Novak Djokovic out at Olympics, losing chance at "Golden Slam"

Tokyo — There will be no "Golden Slam" for Novak Djokovic.

The top-ranked Serb lost to Alexander Zverev of Germany 1-6, 3-6, 6-1 Friday in the semifinals of the tennis tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

Djokovic was attempting to become the first man to win all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same year. He won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon this year and needed the Olympic and U.S. Open titles to complete the collection.

Steffi Graf in 1988 remains the only tennis player to achieve the Golden Slam.

"He won 20 Grand Slams," Zverev said. "So you can't have everything."

Zverev's opponent in the gold-medal match will be Karen Khachanov. The Russian beat Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain 6-3, 6-3.

Djokovic, who hadn't lost since getting beaten by Rafael Nadal at the Italian Open final 2-½ months ago, will play Carreno Busta for bronze.

On a humid and muggy evening at the Ariake Tennis Park, Djokovic committed a series of uncharacteristic errors after a strong start as the 6-foot-6 Zverev began to win free points with his big serve.

When Zverev hit a backhand winner down the line that Djokovic didn't move for to close it out, Djokovic walked to the net where he was embraced by Zverev. Djokovic responded by resting his head on Zverev's shoulder as the pair exchanged some words.

TENNIS-OLY-2020-2021-TOKYO
Serbia's Novak Djokovic congratulates Germany's Alexander Zverev (back to camera) for winning their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men's singles semifinal tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

"I told him that he's the greatest of all time," Zverev said. "I know that he was chasing history, he was chasing (the) Golden Slam. ... We're very close. ... So of course I'm happy that I've won, but in the end of the day I also know (how) he feels."

Djokovic's only Olympic medal was bronze in singles at the 2008 Beijing Games -- his first. He could still win a gold at the Tokyo Games in mixed doubles.

Djokovic was due back on the court almost immediately to play with Serbian partner Nina Stojanovic in the mixed doubles semifinals against the Russian duo of Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev.

It was the third consecutive day that Djokovic was playing two matches.

Viktor Troicki, Serbia's Olympic team coach, told The Associated Press on Thursday that the entire team was against Djokovic playing mixed doubles because they didn't want the event to tire him out with so much on the line in singles.

Without Djokovic, the gold-medal match will be lacking star power.

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