Ash Barty bags a mixed double bronze thanks to Novak Djokovic’s late NO-SHOW after his men’s singles shock defeat
- Ash Barty finished with a bronze medal in mixed doubles at Tokyo Olympics
- Serbia’s Novak Djokovic pulled out injured, with the match officially a walk over
- Denied an on-court meeting between the two world number one’s in tennis
Newly-crowned Wimbledon champion Ash Barty has added an Olympic bronze medal to her collection after Novak Djokovic was a late scratching from the pair’s much-anticipated mixed doubles showdown in Tokyo.
Barty and her one-time housemate John Peers were awarded Australia’s 27th medal of these Games when Djokovic was unable to back up to partner Nina Stojanovic following a sapping two-hour, 47-minute singles bronze medal playoff loss to Pablo Carreno Busta earlier on Saturday.
The Serbian superstar’s late no-show, which officials said was because of a ‘right shoulder injury’, robbed fans of a rare clash between tennis’ two world No.1s.
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 had suffered semi-final heartbreak on Friday night, letting slip 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 have finished with a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in the mixed doubles
Ash Barty and John Peers are good friends away from the court, making their bronze medal in the mixed doubles all the more special
But after suffering a shock first-round loss as the singles top seed to Spain’s world No.47 Sara Sorribes Tormo and then crashing out in the third round of the doubles with Storm Sanders, Barty’s debut Olympics has a happy ending on the podium.
The 25-year-old can showcase the bronze medal next to her coveted Wimbledon trophy, the 2019 French Open title and 2018 US Open doubles crown with Coco Vandeweghe.
For Peers, 33, Olympic bronze will rank among his career highlights.
He won the 2017 Australian Open doubles with Finn Henri Kontinen, as well as two season-ending championships.
But partnering Barty to an Olympic medal, five years after Barty lived with the Peers family in Melbourne during the early stages of her comeback to tennis following an 18-month hiatus, will be extra special.
While the Australians can rejoice, Djokovic’s deflating forfeit completed possibly the most miserable 24 hours in his decorated career.
Loving life in the athletes’ village, where he’s been a magnet to other Olympians throughout the Games, the 20-times grand slam champion awoke on Friday morning a raging favourite to continue his seemingly relentless march towards a fabled ‘golden slam’.
Instead he will depart Japan empty-handed, having lost three matches in two days, then pulled out of a second bronze-medal playoff.
The previously untouchable world No.1 not only lost the mixed doubles semi-final on Friday, but also successive singles encounters in a disastrous end to his fourth Olympic campaign.
Rubbing salt into his wounds, after blowing a set-and-service-break lead in the semi-finals against Alexander Zverev, Djokovic’s 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 loss to Carreno Busta came against the same opponent he was playing while defaulted during last year’s US Open for carelessly hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball.
Ash Barty endured a tough campaign at the Tokyo Games, losing in the first round of the women’s singles to Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (pictured) was a shock withdrawal from the mixed doubles playoff match against Australia due to a shoulder injury
‘I do have a regret for not winning a medal for my country. Opportunities missed both in doubles and singles,’ he said.
‘I didn’t deliver yesterday 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 opportunity to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar-year grand slam with victory at the US Open starting next month.
‘I had some heartbreaking losses at Olympic Games and some big tournaments in my career,’ he said.
‘And I know that those losses have usually made me stronger, in every aspect.’