Ash Barty takes mixed doubles bronze thanks to Novak Djokovic’s late NO-SHOW after shocking men’s singles defeat
- Ash Barty finished with a bronze medal in mixed doubles at the Tokyo Olympics
- Serbia’s Novak Djokovic withdrew injured, with the match officially a walkover
- Denied a meeting on the field between the two world number one in tennis
Newly crowned Wimbledon champion Ash Barty has added an Olympic bronze medal to her collection after Novak Djokovic was a late scratch from the pair’s highly anticipated mixed doubles match in Tokyo.
Barty and her former housemate John Peers were awarded the 27th Australian medal of the Games when Djokovic was unable to support her partner Nina Stojanovic after a tasteless loss of two hours and 47 minutes in singles to Pablo Carreno Busta in the play-offs against Pablo Carreno Busta earlier on Saturday. .
The Serbian superstar’s late no-show, which officials say was due to a ‘proper shoulder injury’, deprived fans of a rare clash between the two tennis world champions.
But it secured Australia’s first Olympic tennis medal since Barty’s Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik claimed bronze in the women’s singles in Athens 17 years ago.
Barty and Peers were heartbroken in Friday night’s semi-final, losing a match point and the chance to play for gold in a 5-7 6-4 13-11 loss to Russians Andrey Rublev and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Ash Barty (pictured right) and John Peers finished with a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in mixed doubles
Ash Barty and John Peers are good friends off the field, which makes their bronze medal in the mixed doubles all the more special
But after a shocking first round loss as the number one in singles to Spanish No. 47 Sara Sorribes Tormo and then crashing out in the third round of doubles with Storm Sanders, Barty’s Olympics debut has a happy ending on the podium.
The 25-year-old can showcase the bronze medal alongside her coveted Wimbledon trophy, the 2019 French Open title and the 2018 US Open double crown with Coco Vandeweghe.
For Peers, 33, Olympic bronze will be one of his career highlights.
He won the 2017 Australian Open double with Finn Henri Kontinen, as well as two season-ending championships.
But linking Barty to an Olympic medal, five years after Barty lived with the Peers family in Melbourne during the early stages of her return to tennis after an 18-month hiatus, will be extra special.
While the Australians can rejoice, Djokovic’s deflating forfeit completed arguably the most miserable 24 hours of his decorated career.
Loving life in the athletes’ village, where he was a magnet for other Olympians during the Games, the 20-time Grand Slam champion awoke on Friday morning as a raging favorite to continue his seemingly relentless march towards a legendary ‘golden slam’.
Instead, he will leave Japan empty-handed after losing three games in two days and then withdrawing from a second bronze medal playoff.
The previously untouchable world No. 1 not only lost Friday’s mixed doubles semi-final, but also consecutive singles encounters in a disastrous end to his fourth Olympic campaign.
Rubbing salt in his wounds, after a set-and-service break lead in the semi-final against Alexander Zverev, came Djokovic’s 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 loss to Carreno Busta against the same opponent he played while he defaulted at last year’s US Open for carelessly hitting a linesman in the throat with a ball.
Ash Barty endured a tough campaign at the Tokyo Games, losing in the first round of women’s singles to Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo
Serb Novak Djokovic (pictured) had to withdraw from the mixed doubles play-off match against Australia due to a shoulder injury.
“I regret not winning a medal for my country. Missed opportunities, both in doubles and singles,” he said.
“Yesterday I didn’t perform and today the level of tennis dropped, also due to exhaustion, mentally and physically.
“But I don’t regret coming to the Olympics at all. Of course not.’
Djokovic still has the chance to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the Grand Slam of the calendar year with victory at the US Open starting next month.
“I’ve had heartbreaking losses in the Olympics and some major tournaments in my career,” he said.
“And I know those losses have mostly made me stronger, in every way.”