Pablo Carreño won a gold-plated bronze. Because to achieve it he had to unhinge the number one in the world, Novak Djokovic, who traveled to Tokyo ready to set another milestone on his path to the Golden Slam, the big four and Olympic gold the same year as Steffi Graf did in 1988, and is leaving without a medal. The Asturian, an Olympic giant, defeated him 6-4, 6-7 (6/8) and 6-3 in 2:49. The most important triumph of his career. Unforgettable. After the Serbian crashed a right to the net, he threw himself to the ground and cried like a child. Empty and the time more full than ever.
In a silent Ariake coliseum, with the claque of the Serbian box haranguing him, Djokovic succumbed to a huge tennis player. Transmuted by the desire for a medal, Carreño achieved the most difficult yet against the winner of Australia, Wimbledon and Roland Garros … of 20 Grand Slams. Furious, in the third set (0-1 and 0-3), the Serbian threw the racket twice into the stands while shouting. Incomprehensibly, it was only sanctioned with a warning, but that did not deconcentrate the 30-year-old Asturian. At the US Open 2020, also against Carreño, ended up hitting a judge and was disqualified.
Spain added the fifth medal in Tokyo with the triumph of Carreño, the 13th of Spanish tennis in history. His six ATP tournaments and his two US Open semifinals are overshadowed for the bronze against number one. And in quarters he had also killed the two, Daniil Medvedev. The week of his life.
In the first set, Pablo Carreño showed he wasn’t bluffing when he said he hoped to leave Tokyo “happy” after disappointment having missed the train to the final against the 25th in the world, Karen Khachanov, who will play the final against Alexander Zverev on Sunday. He was surprised by three break opportunities that the Serbian sought and ended up being the one who took the break (3-2). Djokovic then lifted two set balls on serve and still put Gijon in trouble in the tenth and final game. But a brutal, long exchange, the kind that makes a dent in the legs and empties the lungs, was for Carreño. And the set fell. And the dream began.
The version of the world’s number 11 was much more like the one that led him to knock down Russian Medvedev in the quarterfinals. His deep shots pupated against a Djokovic who ended “fatal” on Friday, with losses against Zverev and later in the mixed doubles, where he was also forced to fight for bronze. In sweltering heat, with the two tennis players applying ice packs as if they were two fighters in the corner, the tie-break was reached in the second quarter. Carreño recovered a 1-4, took the parallel drive for a walk, gritted his teeth, and got with a match ball. Nole, with a very good serve, neutralized it and the equalizer arrived. To start from scratch but suffocated. The two went to the locker room to get some air and change clothes. with the beads of sweat the energy escaped.
But Carreño still had more gasoline. That of the ambition of a medal. Djokovic, who referring to Simone Biles said that the pressure “is a privilege”, he was not able to manage it. His rude racket-throwing show arrived at 0-3 and he left the game to come back in the last game, in which with wounded pride he lifted four match balls. But in the end it fell. Carreño warned that he was coming for a medal and he has it. Above everything and everyone.