Zverev Gives Germany A Golden Olympic Moment To Remember

Alexander Zverev (photo: @ITFTennis/Twitter)

TOKYO/WASHINGTON, August 1, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Thirty-three years after Steffi Graf won Olympic gold in Seoul, Alexander Zverev has won Germany’s second singles gold medal in tennis.

The moment Zverev clinched his nearly-perfect, 80-minute 6-3, 6-1 victory over the ROC’s Karen Khachanov on Centre Court at Ariake Park Sunday evening, the young German slumped to his knees and covered his face in his arms, soaking in the moment of celebration.

After convincingly upsetting World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia during Friday’s semifinal round, which ensured Zverev of winning a medal, the 24-year-old fourth seed backed it up against the No. 12 seed Khachanov by hitting 22 winners – including six aces – and won 87 percent (26 of 30) of his first-serve points. From ahead 4-3, Zverev won seven straight games to win the opening set and established a 5-0 lead in the second. There was no denying Zverev. He converted four of eight break points and saved the only break point he faced, outpointing Khachanov 65-43.

The World No. 5 Zverev, who earlier this year won titles in Acapulco and Madrid, dropped just one set – to Djokovic in the semifinal – during his Olympic debut. En route, he beat Lu Yen-Hsun, Daniel Elahi Galan, Nikoloz Basilashvili, Jeremy Chardy, Djokovic and, finally, Khachanov.

“This is so much bigger than anything else in sports, especially in tennis. This is an incredible feeling for me right now,” Zverev said, quoted by the ITF website. “There is nothing better than this. You are not only playing for yourself, you are playing for your country, and the Olympics are the biggest sporting event in the world. The feeling I have now, and we will have, nothing will be better.”

Zverev joins Boris Becker and Michael Stich, who won the doubles gold medal for Germany at Barcelona in 1992, as the only German men who have won tennis gold medals.

The 25th-ranked Khachanov, who leaves Tokyo with a silver medal – one of three medals won by the Russian Olympic Committee team – gave Zverev props afterward. “He played from the beginning to the end an unbelievable match. I also played an outstanding match from my point of view, but he was just better today – all credit to him. I was dreaming of gold, but I’ll give it a try at the next Olympics.”

As for Zverev, he always believed in himself – even when the naysayers didn’t. He said: “All the tennis experts and ex-players, they always saw other guys being better than me. I now have 16 tournaments wins, four Masters 1000 wins, the ATP Finals, and a gold medal.”

Krejcikova, Siniakova garner first tennis gold for Czech Republic

An Olympic gold medal is the latest milestone for the Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova. They didn’t hide their joy in celebrating their triumph.

On Sunday, the three-time Grand Slam champions who won Roland Garros earlier this summer, won the women’s doubles gold medal match with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland in 85 minutes on a sweltering afternoon at Ariake Park. The loss ended Bencic’s dream of winning two gold medals in Tokyo after she won gold in singles on Saturday evening. It was Switzerland’s second straight silver medal in women’s doubles following Timea Bacsinszky and Martina Hingis at Rio in 2016.

Both 25, Krejcikova and Siniakova converted five of their 11 break points and won nine of the final 10 games of the match to earn the gold medal, clinching victory on their fifth match-point opportunity.

While Czech women have enjoyed a history of solid results in past Olympic Games, with Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova (Seoul 1988 and Atlanta 1996) as well as Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka (London 2012) previously winning silver medals, the top seeds Krejcikova and Siniakova achieved something the others hadn’t: winning a gold medal.

Krejcikova acknowledged the accomplishment of their elder tennis heroes.“The motivation we got from the previous medalist is really big,” she said, quoted by the ITF website. “I think we got really inspired by them. I think we really need to thank them because without them we just woiuldn’t have the motivation and the inspiration.

“It’s really big [to be Olympic champions]. We’re really happy and really grateful that we could be here. We did such a great jobduring these 10 days and we have this beautiful gold medal. It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

Added Siniakova: “It’s really special this one. I really enjoyed my whole time here. It was really tough and I’m so glad we kept fighting and in the end we have this one, this gold medal.

“It’s really amazing. I feel so honored I got to represent my country.”

Pavyluchenkova, Rublev win mixed doubles gold

Going into the final medal contest of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Tennis Event, the mixed doubles gold medal match, one thing was certain: the gold medal would be won by a team representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), which was the monicker that all Russian players were competing under after Russia was stripped of its identity – including its flag and anthem – by the International Olympic Committee for the Tokyo Games after the fallout from a doping saga.

On one side of the net were Andrey Rublev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – both Top 20 singles players – and on the other side were their compatriots Aslan Karatsev and Elena Vesnina, who were runners up in this year’s French Open mixed doubles. Vesnina had previously earned a doubles gold with Ekaterina Makarova in women’s doubles at the Rio Games in 2016 and she came into the final having won 18 career doubles titles.

While Rublev was a rookie in mixed doubles, never having played as a pro, and Pavlyuchenkova had never won a mixed doubles match before Tokyo, the two clicked together well combining the right amount of power with finesse. When it mattered most, they showed their mettle and won a gold medal with their 6-3, 6-7 (5), 13-11 victory over Karatsev and Vesnina.

Rublev secured match point for his team by hitting a smash winner. Then, he dropped to the court in celebration.

“It was like a relief,” Rublev told the Olympic Channel during a post-match interview on Centre Court. “It almost got away. It was a complete relief, like a pleasure. It’s like a blessing. You’re such a lucky person to be here; it’s an honor to be a part of a gold medal. It’s something we could only dream about and we did it.”

Meanwhile, Pavlyuchenkova threw her arms up before dropping down to give Rublev a playful hug. During the medal ceremony, Pavlyuchenkova continued her playfulness as she tried to hang Rublev’s gold medal around her neck.

“I think we fight like crazy every match,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “So that helps a lot. We believed [in each other], we tried to enjoy [the moment]. Of course, nobody expected us to win the gold medal. It’s just an amazing feeling.”

The celebratory mood expressed by Rublev and Pavlyuchenkova provided the right ending to this year’s Olympic Tennis Event, one filled with heartbreak and surprise but also with plenty of celebration, too.

Sunday’s Olympic tennis results

By the numbers

Five different nations won gold medals at this year’s Olympic Tennis Event and 10 nations won medals overall.

“Quotable …”

“It’s not just about the medals or the titles, it’s about the memories you create that will last forever. To share this with Viki is unbelievable. The whole week I never felt like I was in a normal tournament or playing alone. She was alongside me the entire way. I always tell her we won this gold medal together as well.

“When we will be 80 years old and have a coffee, we will talk about these moments and I cannot wait for that.”

Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who won a gold medal in women’s singles and shared a silver medal in women’s doubles with Viktorija Golubic.

“I think sport right now, in the world we are living in, is not only important, but necessary. I think it’s necessary for people to have something to watch, something to cheer for, even if it’s in front of the TV. I think the Olympics are very important to be happening right now – not only for Japan, but the whole world.”

Alexander Zverev of Germany, following his gold medal win in men’s singles on the essential quality of the Olympic Games.

• “I don’t regret coming to Olympics at all. I believe that there are no coincidences in life, everything happens for a reason. I had some heartbreaking losses at Olympics and big tournaments, and I know that those losses have usually made me stronger.”

Novak Djokovic of Serbia on his 2020 Tokyo Olympics experience.