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OLYMPIC NOTEBOOK

Novak Djokovic loses to Alexander Zverev in Olympic tennis semifinals, ending Golden Slam bid

Serbia's Novak Djokovic left the court after being defeated by Germany's Alexander Zverev.
Serbia's Novak Djokovic left the court after being defeated by Germany's Alexander Zverev.TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

TOKYO — There will be no Golden Slam for Novak Djokovic.

The top-ranked Serb lost to Alexander Zverev of Germany, 1-6, 6-3, 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 US 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.”

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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 2½ 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-inch Zverev started 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.

Germany's Alexander Zverev played a backhand during his Men's Singles Semifinal match against Novak Djokovic.
Germany's Alexander Zverev played a backhand during his Men's Singles Semifinal match against Novak Djokovic.Clive Brunskill/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.

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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’s 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.

Zverev’s best career result was reaching the final of last year’s US Open, while the 25th-ranked Khachanov is coming off a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon and is now in the biggest final of his career.

The top-seeded pair of Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic won Olympic gold in men’s doubles tennis. Mektic and Pavic beat Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig, 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 in an all-Croatian final.

The first medal of the tennis competition went to the New Zealand team of Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus, who took bronze in men’s doubles by beating Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren of the United States 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Daniell and Venus became the first New Zealand players to win a medal in tennis since 1912, when Anthony Wilding took bronze in singles while representing Australasia. Wilding, New Zealand’s only Grand Slam singles champion with six titles, was killed during World War I in 1915 at the age of 31.

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Ethiopa’s Selemon Barega tracks down first gold

Selemon Barega of Ethiopia won the first track and field gold medal of the Olympics with a victory in the men’s 10,000 meters.

Barega won in 27 minutes, 43.22 seconds to upset world champion and world-record holder Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda. Cheptegei took the silver medal and Jacob Kiplimo of Uganda was third.

Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare has been provisionally suspended after a positive test for human growth hormone. She was due to run in the semifinals of the women’s 100 meters Saturday.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said Okagbare tested positive in an out-of-competition test July 19. The AIU says it was only informed of the finding Friday, after Okagbare had already run in the 100-meter heats at the Tokyo Games.

Despite the best efforts of (from left) Micah Christenson, Mitchel Stahl and Taylor Sander, Team USA dropped Friday's men's volleyball match to Brazil.
Despite the best efforts of (from left) Micah Christenson, Mitchel Stahl and Taylor Sander, Team USA dropped Friday's men's volleyball match to Brazil.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

US men’s volleyball suffers frustrating loss to Brazil

A serve at a key moment going into the net. Blocking strategy that was poorly executed. Attacks that couldn’t get through Brazil’s defense at the net.

Those kinds of mistakes left the usually calm US men’s volleyball coach John Speraw bewildered on the sideline and knowing the Americans can ill afford any more setbacks following a four-set loss to Brazil in pool play.

“I was pretty frustrated today,” Speraw said. “We really weren’t executing and that can get frustrating when we’re not executing. That’s something that I expect. If we say we’re going to do this, we need to go do that.”

After pulling out a grueling opening set 32-30, the Americans dropped the next three to Brazil 25-23, 25-21, 25-20.

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The loss leaves the US with a 2-2 record with one match remaining in pool play Sunday against Argentina. Defending gold medalist Brazil is 3-1.

“I don’t think the match was really one-sided,” American Matt Anderson said. “They got a couple of runs here and there. But I think we were able to shut down their runs early on the first set, and that gave us a chance. But in the second, third and fourth, they put aside a few strings of points together that were hard to come back from.”

The US can clinch a spot in the quarterfinals with a win against Argentina, giving it a chance to win another medal after getting bronze five years ago in Rio de Janeiro. A loss would likely send the Americans home after pool play for the first time since 2000, when they lost all five matches in Sydney.

South African golfer tests positive for COVID

Paula Reto of South Africa tested positive for COVID-19 and won’t play at the Olympic women’s golf competition next week at Kasumigaseki Country Club. She had not yet left for Tokyo.

She is the first female golfer with a positive test. The men’s competition lost Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau to positive test results.

Reto has been replaced in the 60-player field by Diksha Dagar of India.

Connor Fields of the United States is treated on the track following a crash in a men's BMX semifinal heat.
Connor Fields of the United States is treated on the track following a crash in a men's BMX semifinal heat.CHANG W. LEE/NYT

BMX racer Connor Fields in violent crash

American BMX racer Connor Fields was awake, stable and awaiting further medical evaluation at the hospital after a violent crash on the first lap of his qualifying heat.

The reigning gold medalist slammed into the turn coming off a jump and was hit by two other riders.

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Medical personnel raced onto the course to attend to him before carrying him away on a stretcher to an ambulance at Ariake Urban Sports Park.

The 28-year-old from Las Vegas qualified for the finals despite the crash but was not able to race.

The United States finished fourth in Friday's women's rowing eight final.
The United States finished fourth in Friday's women's rowing eight final.Darron Cummings/Associated Press

American, British rowing teams hit rough waters

The rowing at the Tokyo Olympic Games may be remembered more for the British and American dynasties that sunk rather than the boats that won.

After so much success in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Britain leaves Tokyo with just two medals and its famed men’s four nearly caused an embarrassing crash in a stunning loss.

The Americans didn’t win anything at all. The once-dominant US women’s eight that had won three consecutive Olympic titles, finished fourth as Canada took its first women’s rowing gold medal since 1996.

The British and US programs have work to do for Paris 2024.

New Zealand and the Netherlands led the Tokyo medal totals with five each. Seventeen countries medaled overall, and China looks like a country on the rise after winning the women’s quadruple sculls by five seconds, taking bronze in men’s double sculls, then beating the US to the bronze in the women’s eight.

Alix Klineman (left) and April Ross overcame a rough start to post a three-set win over a tandem from the Netherlands.
Alix Klineman (left) and April Ross overcame a rough start to post a three-set win over a tandem from the Netherlands.Sean M. Haffey/Getty

April Ross, Alix Klineman into beach volleyball knockout round

Americans April Ross and Alix Klineman have moved on to the Olympic beach volleyball knockout round after having just a little bit of trouble against the Netherlands.

Starting in a drizzle and finishing in a downpour, the No. 2 seeded Americans lost the opening set of the match 22-20. It was the first set they have lost in the Tokyo Games. They trailed 12-9 in the second before scoring four straight points and seven of the next eight to make it 21-17.

In the tiebreaking set, they pulled away to beat the winless Dutch pair of Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink 15-5.

Ma Long defended his Olympic title in men’s table tennis by beating Chinese teammate Fan Zhendong, 11-4, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 11-7. Ma’s win marks the fourth straight Olympics that Chinese men have swept the gold and silver medals in singles . . . Japan became the first Asian nation to win Olympic gold in men’s épée team fencing by beating the Russian team, 45-36 . . . Lukáš Krpálek claimed his second Olympic gold medal in judo for the Czech Republic, winning the talent-stacked men’s heavyweight division with an ippon victory over Georgia’s Guram Tushishvili in the final at the Budokan . . . Heavyweight Akira Sone won Japan’s ninth gold medal in judo, beating Cuban veteran Idalys Ortiz with penalties 4:52 into golden score . . . An San of South Korea won her third straight archery gold medal during a shoot-off in the final of the women’s individual event . . . The Czech Republic’s Jiri Prskavec won the gold medal in the men’s kayak slalom on the final run of the event. Prskavec’s flawless ride through the rapids at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Center beat silver-medalist Jakub Grigar of Slovakia by 3.22 seconds. Germany’s Hannes Aigner won bronze . . . The Chinese team of Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping edged China’s Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong, 2-1, for gold in an exciting badminton mixed doubles match . . . China took the top of the podium in women’s trampoline. Zhu Xueying edged teammate Liu Lingling for gold in the finals. Zhu’s score of 56.635 was just enough to top Liu’s total of 56.350. Bryony Page of Great Britain earned the bronze after taking silver in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 . . . Russian shooter Vitalina Batsarashkina won her second gold and third medal in Tokyo, beating Korea’s Kim Minjung in a shoot-off in women’s 25-meter pistol. Batsarashkina tied Kim with 38 points and won the shoot-off, 4-1. China’s Xiao Jiaruxuan took bronze.