Olympics: Zverev powers past Khachanov to win gold

  • Matt Trollope

Alexander Zverev produced the finest performance of his career to date to win Olympic singles gold at Tokyo 2020.

The world No.5 crushed 12th seed Karen Khachanov under the weight of 27 winners – almost four times as many as his opponent – to win 6-3 6-1 in just 79 minutes at Ariake Tennis Park.

The victory marked the first Olympic singles gold medal for Germany since Steffi Graf triumphed in Seoul in 1988 – someone Zverev ensured would remain unmatched in tennis history as the only player to achieve the calendar-year Golden Grand Slam following his semifinal upset of world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

(L-R) Tokyo 2020 Olympics men's singles medallists Karen Khachanov (silver), Alexander Zverev (gold) and Pablo Carreno Busta (bronze). (Getty Images)

Earlier on Sunday, Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova continued their fruitful partnership with victory in the women’s doubles gold medal match over Swiss duo Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.  

The top-seeded pair became their country’s first women’s doubles gold medallists at an Olympic Games after Czech teams won silver medals in the event in 1988, 1996 and 2012.

Despite the loss Bencic has enjoyed a hugely impressive Olympic campaign, departing Tokyo with gold and silver medals thanks to her win over Marketa Vondrousova in Saturday night’s singles final.

In a thrilling finish to the Olympic Tennis Event, the Russian Olympic Committee was assured a gold medal in mixed doubles final when Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev took on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev celebrate winning the gold medal in the mixed doubles final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (Getty Images)

The teams split sets, and Vesnina and Karatsev looked the more likely when they led 7-4 in the match tiebreak, only for Pavlyuchenkova and Rublev to win five straight points and earn two match points.

Vesnina and Karatsev saved both of them and won a third consecutive point to arrive at a match point of their own, but Pavlyuchenkova saved it with a brilliantly poached volley, before she and Rublev eventually secured gold with a 6-3 6-7(5) [13-11].

Zverev adds gold to growing tennis CV

Zverev’s Olympic victory earned the German a 16th career title. Among that number are four ATP Masters titles and a win at the lucrative ATP Finals in 2018. 

Judging by the way he sunk to his knees and celebrated his win over Khachanov, none of those trophies match the significance of what he achieved in Tokyo. 

Zverev began commandingly, belting an overhead winner to break for a 2-1 lead.

And by the end of the first set, he had struck 15 winners to just three from Khachanov – a player not short on power himself.

"A gold medal for me at the Olympics, the value is incredible. The Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world. There is nothing compared to this."
Alexander Zverev

Zverev then surged to a 3-0 lead in the second, striking 40 per cent of his shots inside the baseline – uncommonly aggressive positioning for a player who has frequently been criticised for playing too passively despite obvious physical weapons.

That lead became 5-0 before Khachanov finally got on the board.

But despite a slight wobble when serving for the gold medal at 5-1, Zverev recovered from 0-30 down to complete an authoritative performance.

The German has now won 22 of his past 26 matches after winning a third title in 2021.

Doubles: Krejcikova & Siniakova secure gold for Czech Republic

Krejcikova and Siniakova have enjoyed an even more impressive season than Zverev so far, winning the Roland Garros and Madrid titles as well as reaching the final of the Australian Open.

And they made it all the more satisfying with victory in the Tokyo 2020 doubles event, with a gold medal to add to their third Grand Slam doubles titles.

They were forced to work hard against the unseeded Swiss pairing, who were serving first and nudged ahead 5-4 in the opening set.

But the Czechs scored the first break in the 11th game rapidly gathered momentum, winning six games in a row to storm to a 7-5 3-0 lead after Golubic double-faulted.

Barbora Krejcikova (L) and Katerina Siniakova pose with their gold medals after winning the women's doubles final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. (Getty Images)

Bencic and Golubic got on the board when they broke Siniakova’s serve in the next game, but the Czechs responded strongly, with Krejcikova swatting a backhand drive volley winner for a break at love and a 4-1 lead.

Growing in confidence, Krejcikova and Siniakova pushed ahead 5-1; in the next game they required five match points but never looked in danger of losing control of the contest. 

They ultimately overwhelmed Bencic and Golubic with 38 winners to 13, securing gold in one hour and 25 minutes.

The result served as a form of revenge for Krejcikova, who fell to Bencic in the third round of the singles event despite winning the first set 6-1. 

Quotes of the day

“There are only few people in this world who are happier than me at the moment. This is so much bigger than anything else in sports. A gold medal for me at the Olympics, the value is incredible. The Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world. There is nothing compared to this."
- Alexander Zverev

"We’re really happy and really grateful that we could be here. We did such a great job during these 10 days and we have this beautiful gold medal. It’s pretty much a dream come true."
- Barbora Krejcikova, after she and Czech partner won gold in the women's doubles.

"It’s not just about the medals or the titles, it’s about the memories you create that will last forever. To share this with Viki (Golubic) is unbelievable. When we will be 80 years old and have a coffee, we will talk about these moments and I cannot wait for that.”
- Belinda Bencic, who won silver in doubles after her gold in singles.