Alexander Zverev stopped world number one Novak Djokovic’s attempt for a calendar Golden Grand Slam in the Olympics men’s singles semi-finals on Friday.
Djokovic lost a set and a break against German fourth seed Zverev, who went on to win 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 and go to the final against Russian Karen Khachanov on Sunday.
“Tough day, a really tough day,” said Djokovic, 34, who has never won an Olympic singles gold.
The Serbian star had already won the Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon titles this year, and needed Olympic gold and the US Open title to follow in the footsteps of Steffi Graf, who won the Golden Slam in 1988.
In a remarkable display, Zverev smashed 30 winners past the usually impervious Djokovic, ending his effort to make history.
“I was leading a set then a break and he managed to turn the match around, he served huge, was attacking, and I was not getting any free points on my first serves,” bemoaned Djokovic.
“And I missed a lot of first serves from 3-2 in the second. To play someone of his quality, of his level, it’s just too tough to win a match.”
Djokovic suffered another more disappointment at the Olympics, where his best finish was a bronze medal in 2008.
Nine years ago, he lost to eventual winner Andy Murray in the semi-finals in London Olympics.
Meanwhile, at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 20-time Grand Slam champion was in tears after a first-round elimination against Juan Martin del Potro.
After winning 10 of the last 11 games against Djokovic, the world number five Zverev is aiming to become the first German to win a singles gold since Graf in Seoul.
“It’s incredible beating the best player in the world undoubtedly right now and in this season,” said Zverev.
Later Friday, Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic lost their mixed doubles semi-final to Aslan Karatsev and Elena Vesnina 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, ending Djokovic’s second chance to capture a gold medal.
He still has a chance to earn two bronze medals, as he faces Pablo Carreno Busta on Saturday before teaming up with Stojanovic to face Australians Ashleigh Barty and John Peers on Sunday.
Khachanov, a former top-10 player who has battled for consistency in the last three seasons, had beaten Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-3 earlier in the day.
Khachanov is attempting to become the first Russian men’s singles champion since Yevgeny Kafelnikov won the event in Sydney 21 years ago.
With a 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 victory over fellow Croatians Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig in the men’s doubles final, Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic became New Zealand’s first Olympic tennis medalists in 109 years, while Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus became New Zealand’s first Olympic tennis medalists in 109 years.
Barty’s third and last effort to capture a gold medal was cut short when she and Peers lost in the mixed doubles semi-finals against Russians Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev.