Russian-Israeli tennis player Aslan Karatsev and his partner, Russian Elena Vesnina, defeated world no. 1 Novak Djokovic and his partner Nina Stojanovic Friday at the Tokyo Olympics. The duo will now proceed to the mixed doubles finals for a shot at a gold medal.
Djokovic’s defeat denied him his second gold medal of the day as he and Stojanovic lost 7-6 (7/4), 7-5. Earlier Djokovic’s bid to win a Golden Slam — winning all four Grand Slam tournaments and Olympic gold in the same year — was dashed when he lost in singles to German Alexander Zverev.
Karatsev and Vesnina will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev in an all-Russian final on Sunday after their compatriots beat women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty and John Peers in the first semi-final.
A tight first set was taken on a tie-break by Vesnina and Karatsev, but Djokovic and Stojanovic looked poised to force a deciding breaker after moving 4-2 ahead in the second.
But Stojanovic was broken in the eighth game and then again in game 12, with Djokovic bunting a difficult volley long on the first match point.
The 34-year-old Djokovic, who won singles bronze in 2008, will play two bronze-medal matches on Saturday, against Pablo Carreno Busta in the singles before he and Stojanovic take on Australia’s Barty and Peers.
Karatsev, 27, was born in the North Caucasus region of Russia. His maternal grandfather is Jewish, and he moved to Israel when he was 3 years old. He left at 12 and said the Israel Tennis Association’s lack of funding was a major factor pushing him to leave. His mother and sister remained in Israel.
Karatsev was ranked 24 in the world as of June.