Novak Djokovic's Golden Slam hopes were dashed as he was defeated by fourth seed Alexander Zverev in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
Djokovic seemed to be cruising to a straightforward victory as he raced to a 6-1, 3-2 lead. However, his level completely dropped off after that and Zverev capitalized, breaking the Serb twice to steal the second set 6-3. The German then reeled off six of the last seven games to complete a 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over a stunned Djokovic.
Speaking to the press after his heartbreaking defeat, Djokovic expressed disappointment with how his game fell apart. The Serb said he felt "terrible" with how the match played out, but at the same time gave credit to Zverev for raising his own level.
"Terrible, I feel terrible. My game fell apart," Djokovic said. "It's sport. He played better. I have to give him credit for the turnaround. He served extremely well."
"I didn't get many opportunities on his second serve, and my serve dropped drastically after I took the lead with 3-2 in the second set, I didn't get easy points at all. My game fell apart, I think he took eight games, I just stopped."
Djokovic admitted that his dwindling first-serve percentage contributed to his struggles. He also conceded that he was "extremely exhausted" coming into the Olympics but was motivated by the prospect of bringing home a medal for his country.
"I let him attack, had a weak percentage on the first serve… At this level, with the pressure of the Games and playing for your country what to do? I didn't come here fresh, I came extremely exhausted emotionally, but I was motivated, of course with the desire to bring a medal."
"I hope that I can recover and win at least one medal for my country" - Novak Djokovic
Shortly after losing to Zverev, Djokovic took the court alongside Nina Stojanovic for their mixed doubles semi-final against Russian pair Aslan Karatsev and Elena Vesnina. Unfortunately for the Serbs, they fell to a straight-sets defeat and will face Ashleigh Barty and John Peers in the bronze medal playoff.
Djokovic, who can also claim bronze in the singles by defeating Pablo Carreno Busta on Saturday, said he hoped to triumph in at least one of the events.
"I feel terrible at the moment, but I hope for a fresh start tomorrow. I hope that I will recover and that I will be able to win at least one medal for my country," he said.