With a record 20 majors including a victory at Wimbledon (his sixth) earlier this month, Novak Djokovic may already be the greatest tennis player of all-time. But he didn’t look like it in Tokyo with Saturday’s loss to Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta marking the 34-year-old’s third defeat in two days. Still reeling from his semifinals loss to Alexander Zverev of Germany 24 hours earlier, Djokovic couldn’t mask his frustration, smashing his racket in anger (he also hurled it into the crowd at one point) as Carreno Busta bested him to finish third in this year’s Olympic singles competition.
Djokovic and doubles partner Nina Stojanovic had another match scheduled Saturday, but the World No. 1 withdrew due to injury, ceding the bronze to Australia. For all his successes, the Serbian hasn’t medaled at the Olympics since 2008, missing the podium in London (2012), Rio (’16) and again in Tokyo.
“I just didn't deliver yesterday and today,” lamented Djokovic (via Andrew Dampf of the Associated Press), who admitted to being “mentally and physically” exhausted. “My body just gave up.”
Recently, Djokovic had been critical of US Olympian Simone Biles, who pulled out of several events, citing mental health concerns and a case of the “twisties,” a common phenomenon seen in gymnastics. “Without pressure, there is no professional sport,” expressed Djokovic. “If you are aiming to be at the top of the game you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments—on the court but also off the court."
Yet, time and again, Djokovic has let his emotions get the better of him, including at last summer’s U.S. Open when he was disqualified for accidentally hitting a line judge with his ball. Ironically, that match was also against Carreno Busta.
Djokovic will leave Japan emptyhanded, though if he’s able to win next month’s U.S. Open in Queens, he’ll become the first men’s tennis player to win all four Grand Slam events in the same calendar year since Australian Rod Laver in 1969.