Alexander Zverev said that “nothing is bigger” than winning an Olympic gold medal after brushing aside Karen Khachanov to take the men’s singles title in Tokyo on Sunday.
The fourth seed, who ended Novak Djokovic’s Golden Grand Slam bid in the semi-finals, produced a dominant display to win 6-3, 6-1 after just 79 minutes at the Ariake Tennis Park.
“There is nothing better than this,” said Zverev, who fell to the ground in celebration after clinching the win.
The world number five becomes only the second German to win an Olympic singles gold after Steffi Graf in 1988, while Boris Becker and Michael Stich took the men’s doubles crown four years later.
Zverev is still waiting for a maiden Grand Slam title after several near misses, including when he blew a two-set lead to lose to Dominic Thiem in last year’s US Open final.
“To be honest, I don’t want to talk about the next Grand Slam right now,” he said when asked if his Olympic success could help him go one better at Flushing Meadows next month.
“I just won the Olympic Games and I think there’s nothing bigger than winning the Olympic Games.”
The 24-year-old said this victory trumps his 2018 ATP Finals triumph and his four Masters titles.
“I can’t compare it because this is so much bigger than anything else in sports, especially in tennis,” Zverev added.
“Yes, I’ve won the World Tour Finals, but I think, to be honest, a gold medal at the Olympics, for me, the value is incredible because you’re not only playing for yourself, you’re playing for your whole country.”
Khachanov had continued his return to form in Tokyo from recent weeks after reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals, but this match proved a step too far.
“He played I think an outstanding match. He was just better today, all credit to him,” said the silver medallist.
A small crowd of locals gathered to protest against the staging of the Tokyo Olympics outside the venue at the start of the match, after a surge of Covid-19 cases in Japan.
“We all heard it, it was quite loud,” said Zverev. “I think the whole world will be quite happy that this event (Olympics) is going on.
“I think sports, in the time we’re living in right now, is not only nice to have, but it’s necessary.”
Zverev made short work of the final, crushing six aces and 16 winners past his overwhelmed opponent.
He struck first blood with a break in the third game and then importantly saved a break point to take a 4-2 lead.
Zverev did not let up the pressure from there and brought up a set point in the ninth game, and although Khachanov recovered initially, a successful review gave Zverev a second chance.
He capped an excellent opening set as Khachanov sent a stretching volley spinning into the tramlines.
Khachanov, the world number 25, may have hoped for some respite from the other side of the net early in the second set, but a blistering backhand winner up the line gave Zverev a hold to love.
The 25-year-old Khachanov’s gold-medal hopes were all but ended as Zverev’s brilliant backhand helped him into a 4-0 advantage as he broke for a second time in the second set following a gruelling rally.
A hold to love put Zverev on the brink of gold, and he held his nerve with some big serving — his gold medal confirmed on a first match point as Khachanov hit the net.
Earlier on Sunday, Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova added the women’s doubles gold to their 2021 French Open title.
Krejcikova, who also won the Roland Garros singles earlier this year, and Siniakova beat Swiss pair Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic 7-5, 6-1.
The defeat meant Bencic missed out on a second gold after winning the singles on Saturday.