Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev has emulated incomparable compatriot Steffi Graf and struck Olympic gold, declaring: “There is nothing better than this.”
ou are not only playing for yourself, you are playing for your whole country, so this is an incredible feeling for me right now. There is nothing better than this Alexander Zverev
The second German to seal a singles title – and first male – at the world’s biggest sporting jamboree preserved Graf’s record as the only player to achieve the Golden Slam of four majors and the Games in the same year when he stunned favourite Novak Djokovic in the last four.
And his emphatic 6-3 6-1 win over Karen Khachanov in the Tokyo 2020 decider also, of course, enabled him to seal one title to elude fellow countryman and Graf contemporary Boris Becker.
Zverev said: “I’ve won the World Tour Finals (2018) but a gold medal at the Olympics, is so much bigger than everything else in sport. You are not only playing for yourself, you are playing for your whole country, so this is an incredible feeling for me right now. There is nothing better than this.”
Whether the 24-year-old can go on to start biting into Becker’s Grand Slam haul of six at the upcoming US Open with a debut major triumph is another question. One which he declined to answer in the aftermath of his 79-minute crushing of Khachanov at the Ariake Tennis Park.
The fourth seed has been tipped as one of the likely lads to break-up the cartel of the Big Three, Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and, of course, Djokovic, who have each sealed a record-equalling 20 Slam crowns.
But Zverev, beaten in his first Slam final by Dominic Thiem in New York last September, said: “I don’t want to talk about the next grand slam right now because I just won the Olympic Games. I want to enjoy this one for two minutes.”
The world No.5, who had lifted the ATP Masters 1000 and Mexican Open titles this year, was in imperious form against Wimbledon quarter-finalist Khachanov.
Zverev, 6ft.6in, rained down a series of blistering winners on both wings, particularly with his backhands down the line.
He broke his opponent from the Russian Olympic Committee in the third game of the opening set and moved on into the lead.
And Zverev stepped up his game to an impressive level in the second set to grind any hopes Khachanov might have had into dust.
Khachanov, 25, said: “From beginning to the end, he played an unbelievable match.”
In the men’s doubles, Nikola Mektic has declared combining with Mate Pavic to secure Croatia’s first Olympic gold is “more than a dream come true”.
Wimbledon champions Metkic and Pavic, top seeds, defeated compatriots Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig, conquerors of Britons Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury in the last eight, 6-4 3-3 10-6 in the final in Tokyo.
Mektic, who with Pavic had won eight ATP Tour-level titles in their first year together, said: “This is just a very happy feeling and we’re super thrilled to win the title and just to be at the Olympics, To have such a great result is just more than a dream come true and I’m so delighted to share this moment with Mate.”
* Quotes from BBC, ATP, PA and ITF.
About the author
Mike Donovan is an author and award-winning journalist who has covered tennis for more than 30 years, working for a variety of newspapers and magazines. He has also reported for the official Championships’ website (as well as this one, of course). Plus, Mike has also written on football and his latest book on the sport, Football’s Braveheart: The Authorised Biography on Dave Mackay, is about a legend with Tottenham Hotspur, Heart of Midlothian, Derby County and Scotland. It is out on Pitch Publishing via all good bookshops and online.