Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta bounced back from his disappointing semi-final defeat by upsetting top-seeded Serbian Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 to claim the bronze medal on Saturday at the Tokyo Olympics.
The sixth seed, who defeated World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev on the way to the bronze medal match, played aggressively throughout against Djokovic, striking the ball with great power on his groundstrokes. After squandering a match point at 6/5 in the second set tie-break, the 30-year-old raised his level in the third set to record victory in two hours and 49 minutes.
“I won [the] Davis Cup, and I’ve gone far in other tournaments, but winning an Olympic medal is indescribable,” Carreno Busta told ITFtennis.com. “I’ve felt the support from Spain, my family and people around me, and have received fond messages from those who saw me lose yesterday. I want to share this medal with all of them.”
Carreno Busta was making his Olympics debut this week and came into the event full of confidence having captured his first ATP 500 trophy at the Hamburg European Open earlier this month. The Spaniard also lifted the AnyTech365 Andalucia Open title in Marbella on home soil in April.
In a high-quality first set, Carreno Busta showed resilience, fending off three break points across his opening two service games. The Spaniard then capitalised on Djokovic’s low first serve percentage of just 44 per cent in the first set to move ahead as he showcased a mix of power and precision on his backhand.
Both players were strong on serve in the second with no break points offered up as it moved to a tie-break. Djokovic then demonstrated his defensive skills, saving one match point at 5/6 before levelling when Carreno Busta fired a forehand wide. Carreno Busta did not let this set him back though as he regained his focus to storm into a 3-0 lead in the third set. The Spaniard hit seven winners in the decider, taking his sixth match point to claim victory.
Djokovic’s historic Golden Grand Slam attempt was ended by Alexander Zverev on Friday and the 34-year-old struggled to find his best form against Carreno Busta. After lifting the first three major championships of the season, the 34-year-old’s attention will now turn to the hard-court season.
“I’ve had some heart-breaking losses at the Olympic Games and some big tournaments in my career,” Djokovic told ITFtennis.com. “I know that those losses have usually made me stronger in every aspect. I know that I will bounce back.
“I will try to keep going for the Paris Olympic Games. I will fight for my country to win medals. I’m sorry that I disappointed a lot of sports fans in my country, but that’s sport. I gave it [my] all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much, I left it out on the court.”
The World No. 1, who won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will aim to capture a fourth US Open title in September and become the second male player behind Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam.
Following his defeat, Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic withdrew from their mixed doubles bronze medal match against Australians Ashleigh Barty and John Peers due to Djokovic suffering with a right shoulder injury. It is the sixth time Australia have won an Olympic medal in tennis.