Alexander Zverev said “nothing is bigger” than winning an Olympic gold medal after sidelining Karen Khachanov to take the men’s singles title in Tokyo on Sunday.
The fourth seed, which ended Novak Djokovic’s Golden Grand Slam bid in the semi-finals, produced a dominant display to win 6-3, 6-1 after just 79 minutes at Ariake Tennis Park.
“It doesn’t get better than this,” said Zverev, who fell to the ground in celebration after claiming the victory.
The world number five becomes the second German to win individual Olympic gold after Steffi Graf in 1988, while Boris Becker and Michael Stich took the men’s doubles crown four years later.
Zverev is still awaiting his first Grand Slam title after several misses, even as he blew a two-set lead to lose to Dominic Thiem in last year’s US Open final.
“To be honest, I don’t want to talk about the next Grand Slam right now,” he said when asked if his Olympic success could help him improve at Flushing Meadows next month.
“I just won the Olympics and I think there is nothing greater than winning the Olympics.”
The 24-year-old said this victory triumphs over his 2018 ATP Finals triumph and his four Masters titles.
“I can’t compare it because this is so much bigger than anything else in sports, especially tennis,” Zverev added.
“Yes, I have won the World Tour Finals, but I think, to be honest, a gold medal in the Olympics, for me, the value is incredible because you are not only playing for yourself, you are playing for yours. the whole country. “
Khachanov had continued his return to form in Tokyo since recent weeks after reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals, but this match turned out to be a step too far.
“I think he played an exceptional game. He was just better today, all the credit to him, ”said the silver medalist.
A small crowd of locals gathered to protest against the Tokyo Olympics being held off-site at the start of the match, after a surge in Covid-19 cases in Japan.
“We all heard it, it was pretty loud,” Zverev said. “I think the whole world will be quite happy that this event (Olympics) is taking place.
“I think that sports, in the moment in which we live now, it is not only good to have them, but they are necessary.”
Zverev made short work of the final, crushing six aces and 16 winners past his overwhelmed opponent.
He hit first blood with a break in Game 3 and then importantly saved a break point to take a 4-2 lead.
Zverev didn’t budge from there and put up a set point in the ninth game, and although Khachanov bounced back initially, a successful review gave Zverev a second chance.
He capped off an excellent opening set when Khachanov sent a volley that spiraled into the tram lines.
Khachanov, the world number 25, may have expected a respite from the other side of the net early in the second set, but a huge winning backhand down the line gave Zverev a touch of love.
The 25-year-old Khachanov’s hopes of winning the gold medal were nearly over when Zverev’s brilliant backhand helped him gain a 4-0 lead when he broke for the second time in the second set after a grueling rally.
A grip on love put Zverev on the brink of gold, and he was held back with a great serve – his gold medal was confirmed on a first match point when Khachanov hit the net.
Earlier on Sunday, Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova added gold in women’s doubles to their 2021 French Open title.
Krejcikova, who also won the Roland Garros singles earlier this year, and Siniakova beat Swiss couple Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic 7-5, 6-1.
The loss meant Bencic missed a second gold after winning the singles on Saturday.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS To access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and more than 70 other titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download from 4am and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.