'Serbinator' Djokovic vows: 'I'll be back'

Novak Djokovic smashing his racquet in anger during his bronze medal defeat by Pablo Carreno Busta.
Novak Djokovic smashing his racquet in anger during his bronze medal defeat by Pablo Carreno Busta.

Novak Djokovic has vowed to come back stronger after he suffered one final day of Olympic heartbreak in Tokyo.

The world No.1 will leave the Japanese capital without a medal after losing out to Pablo Carreno Busta in a hard-fought battle for singles bronze on Saturday and then pulling out of his mixed doubles final alongside Nina Stojanovic citing a left shoulder injury.

Djokovic had been bidding to become the first man to win a 'golden slam' of all four major titles and Olympic singles gold in the same year before a shock loss to Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals on Friday.

Rousing himself to go for bronze was always likely to be tough and he lost his cool early in the third set against Spain's Carreno Busta.

Known as the 'Serbinator' on his best machine-like days, here Djokovic showed his other, emotional side, hurling one racquet into the empty stands and then smashing another against the net post as he fell to a 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 defeat.

This was the third time Djokovic, who had not lost back-to-back matches since 2019, has played for bronze at the Olympics but a 2008 victory over James Blake in Beijing remains his only medal.

He will be 37 in Paris in three years' time but insisted he would continue his quest, while his immediate priority is to rest and recover both mentally and physically in time for his biggest goal - to win the US Open and become the first man in more than 50 years to complete the calendar grand slam.

"I do have a regret for not winning a medal for my country," said Djokovic.

"But I don't regret coming to the Olympics at all.

"I believe there is no coincidence in life, everything happens for a reason, and I had some heartbreaking losses at Olympic Games, and I know that those losses have usually made me stronger, in every aspect.

"I know that I will bounce back. I will try to keep going for Paris Olympic Games, I will fight for my country to win medals and I'm sorry that I disappointed a lot of sports fans in my country - but that's sport.

"I gave it all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much.

"I felt it out on the court. The consequences, physically hopefully, will not create a problem for me for US Open. That's something that I'm not sure about right now.

"But I'm not regretting giving it all because, when you play for your country, that's necessary."

Carreno Busta was the opponent at the US Open last summer when Djokovic was defaulted for hitting a line judge with a ball and, when the Spaniard saved a break point in the opening game, his opponent flung his racquet into the stands.

Remarkably, he did not receive a warning, and Carreno Busta was clearly shocked that Djokovic was not given a point penalty when he angrily destroyed another racquet after falling 3-0 behind.

Djokovic said: "It was an emotional outburst and it happens. It's not the first time and not the last time, probably.

"It's not nice, of course, but it's part of, I guess, who I am. I don't like doing these things. I'm sorry for sending this kind of message but we're all human beings and sometimes it's difficult to control your emotions."

Australian Associated Press