'Disbelief': Aussie medallists Barty and Peers react to Djokovic drama

Aussies John Peers and Ash Barty are seen here talking after claiming a bronze medal in mixed doubles.
Aussies John Peers and Ash Barty were in shock after learning that Novak Djokovic had withdrawn from their bronze medal match. Pic: Ch7/AAP

Australian tennis stars Ash Barty and John Peers thought Olympic organisers were "joking" after being informed that Novak Djokovic had gifted them a bronze medal in the mixed doubles.

Barty and her one-time housemate Peers were awarded Australia's 27th medal of these Games when Djokovic was unable to back up to partner Nina Stojanovic following a sapping two-hour, 47-minute singles bronze medal playoff loss to Pablo Carreno Busta earlier on Saturday.

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The Serbian superstar's late no-show, which officials said was because of a "right shoulder injury", robbed fans of a rare clash between tennis' two world No.1s.

But it secured Australia's first Olympic tennis medal since Barty's Fed Cup captain Alicia Molik claimed bronze in the women's singles in Athens 17 years ago.

Barty was typically all class when speaking about the bizarre situation shortly after they had been informed.

'Very strange, I mean heartbreaking for Team Serbia not to be able to walk out on the court tonight but for Johnny and I it's incredible," Barty told Channel Seven.

"We were just sitting, getting prepared to play and obviously the supervisors came up and let us know (that Serbia had withdrawn).

"I think we put ourselves in the position over the whole week to play good tennis and we played great so I feel like we really deserved this one."

After suffering a shock first-round loss as the singles top seed to Spain's world No.47 Sara Sorribes Tormo and then crashing out in the third round of the doubles with Storm Sanders, Barty's debut Olympics has a happy ending on the podium.

Pictured here, Aussies Ash Barty and John Peers celebrate and Novak Djokovic looks stunned on the right.
Aussies Ash Barty and John Peers were gifted bronze medals after Djokovic pulled out of the mixed doubles. Pic: Getty

The 25-year-old can showcase the bronze medal next to her coveted Wimbledon trophy, the 2019 French Open title and 2018 US Open doubles crown with Coco Vandeweghe.

For Peers, Olympic bronze will rank among his career highlights, with the Aussie admitting he was in "disbelief" when informed that the bronze medal match had been scrapped.

"We thought they (tournament supervisors) were joking there at first, we didn't think it was going to happen," Peers said.

"Probably a bit of disbelief but now we can relax and enjoy being bronze medallists."

The 33-year-old Peers won the 2017 Australian Open doubles with Finn Henri Kontinen, as well as two season-ending championships.

But partnering Barty to an Olympic medal, five years after Barty lived with the Peers family in Melbourne during the early stages of her comeback to tennis following an 18-month hiatus, will be extra special.

Aussie mixed doubles pair thrilled with bronze

"It's what you dream of as a child being part of an Olympic Games but we're also not here to make up the numbers," Barty added.

"We came here to win a medal for our country and now to be able to do that, I know it's been a long time since the tennis team brought home a medal.

"This was an event they we earmarked at the start of the year, wanting to do well and to be able to share this moment with Johnny and both of our families back home is incredible."

While the Australians can rejoice, Djokovic's deflating forfeit completed possibly the most miserable 24 hours in his decorated career.

Loving life in the athletes' village, where he's been a magnet to other Olympians throughout the Games, the 20-times grand slam champion awoke on Friday morning a raging favourite to continue his seemingly relentless march towards a fabled "golden slam".

Instead he will depart Japan empty-handed, having lost three matches in two days, then pulled out of a second bronze-medal playoff.

Seen here, Novak Djokovic looks frustrated during his loss to Pablo Carreno-Busta in the bronze medal match.
Novak Djokovic threw more than one tantrum in his loss to Pablo Carreno-Busta in the bronze medal match. Pic: Eurosport/Getty

The previously untouchable world No.1 not only lost the mixed doubles semi-final on Friday, but also successive singles encounters in a disastrous end to his fourth Olympic campaign.

Rubbing salt into his wounds, after blowing a set-and-service-break lead in the semi-finals against Alexander Zverev, Djokovic's 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 loss to Carreno Busta came against the same opponent he was playing while defaulted during last year's US Open for carelessly hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball.

"I do have a regret for not winning a medal for my country. Opportunities missed both in doubles and singles," he said.

"I didn't deliver yesterday and today, the level of tennis dropped, also due to exhaustion, mentally and physically.

"But, I don't regret coming to the Olympics at all. Of course not."

The 34-year-old still has the opportunity to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the calendar-year grand slam with victory at the US Open starting next month.

"I had some heartbreaking losses at Olympic Games and some big tournaments in my career," he said.

"And I know that those losses have usually made me stronger, in every aspect."

with agencies

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