Tokyo Olympics: Alexander Zverev wins men’s singles gold with straightforward victory over Karen Kachanov

The pinnacle of a career in tennis - for Zverev himself, at least

Paul Eddison
Sunday 01 August 2021 13:50
comments
<p>World No5 Alexander Zverev wins gold for Germany</p>

World No5 Alexander Zverev wins gold for Germany

There was something striking about the way Alexander Zverev proclaimed the Olympics as the biggest event in sport against the backdrop of a protest against the Tokyo Games that was audible during the gold medal match.

The 24-year-old became the first German to win Olympic men’s singles tennis gold, brushing aside the challenge of Russian Karen Khachanov, 6-3 6-1, live on live on Eurosport and discovery+ .

During the first set, a small collection of protesters outside the stadium were audible from Centre Court, a similarly determined bunch to those who made their voices heard during the opening ceremony nine days ago. The relentless of the sport and Japan’s success has decreased the coverage of opposition to the Olympics in Japan, but it still exists.

That it came at the tennis may just be coincidence, but it made for a notable juxtaposition. There has long been a debate over whether tennis – like golf or football – really has a place at the Olympics, sports for whom the pinnacle is not a gold medal.

But to hear Zverev speak, this is as big as it gets.

He said: “There is nothing better than this. You’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for everybody involved.

“I have the gold medal around my neck but I know everyone in Germany was supporting me, everyone back home is supporting all the athletes here. The Olympics is the biggest sporting event in the world. There is nothing you can compare it to. The feelings that I have, the feelings that I will probably have for a few days can’t compare to anything else.

“This is so much bigger than everything else in sports and especially in tennis.”

Zverev is not the first to take this view. Ask Andy Murray for his career highlights and along with his Wimbledon titles, he will bring up his two Olympic golds and carrying the flag at the opening ceremony in Rio in 2016.

Roger Federer is for many the greatest of all time, but never won Olympic singles gold. Nor has Novak Djokovic after defeat to Zverev in the semi-final. That absence on their respective resumes looms large.

After coming from a set and a break down against Djokovic on Friday, Zverev produced two more sets of blistering tennis to achieve something two of his illustrious idols never have.

For selfish reasons, he was understandably happy that these Games have gone ahead, even if not everyone agrees. And while he was reluctant to wade into the debate, the 24-year-old expressed his belief that these Games are vital for people across the world.

He added: “I don’t know what the protest was about but we all heard it; it was quite loud. I’m not a politician, but I think most people will be quite happy that the Olympics are going on.

“Sports, in the times we are living in right now, are not only nice to have, but necessary.

“Necessary for people to have something to watch, something to cheer, even if it’s not live but on TV. I think it’s very helpful that the Olympics is happening right now, not just for Japan but the whole world.”

Zverev is a year younger than Murray when he won the first of his Olympic titles in London nine years ago.

The Scot went onto win his maiden Grand Slam in New York a month later and it was to prove a turning point in his career.

The parallels are evident, but rather than see this as a launchpad, Zverev intends to bask in the success a little longer.

He added: “I don’t want to talk about the next Grand Slam because I just won the Olympic Games and I think there is nothing bigger than winning the Olympic Games. I played some decent tennis but right now I want to enjoy this one for two minutes.”

This may change Zverev’s career as it did Murray’s. For now though, it seems fair to let him celebrate it, even if not everyone would agree.

Stream every unmissable moment of Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 live on discovery+, The Streaming Home of the Olympics.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments