Dominic Thiem Rallies from Two Sets Down to Win US Open for First Major Title
(September 13, 2020)The ATP Next Gen has arrived. For the first time on the men’s tennis tour, someone born in the 1990’s has won a major title. No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem of Austria beat No, 5 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany beat of Austria 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6) in four hours to win the 2020 US Open in his fourth major final. He lost the French Open final in 2018 and 2019, as well as the 2020 Australian Open.
Thiem is the first player to come back from two sets down in the championship match to win since American Richard “Pancho” Gonzales defeated countryman Fred Schroeder Jr., 16-18, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, in 1949.
Also, this was also the first-ever US Open championship match to be decided by a fifth-set tiebreak.
This was the fourth straight men’s major final that had a five-set match.
He is the first Austrian to win a major since 1995 when Thomas Muster won the French Open title.
Zverev, 23, played flawlessly in the opening set, serving well and attacking his shots and even charging the net. He quickly broke his opponent twice to win the set 6-2. He won 16 of 19 points on his first serve.
In the second set Zverev built up a 5-1 lead, but Thiem won three straight games to get to 5-4, but Zverev fought off the surge to close the set 6-4.
Thiem said that his previous experience in major finals did not necessarily give him an advantage.
“I was so tight in the beginning, ” he said in his news conference. “Maybe it was not even good that I played in previous major finals. I mean, I wanted this title so much, and of course there was also in my head that if I lose this one, it’s 0-4. It’s always in your head. Is this chance ever coming back again? This, that, all these thoughts, which are not great to play your best tennis, to play free.
“That’s what exactly happened in the beginning. Luckily then things changed in the third set.”
Not done yet. pic.twitter.com/WOVX2FnoRI
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 13, 2020
In the third set, again the German broke the 27-year-old Austrian’s serve early for a 2-1 lead. But Thiem made his way back on serve and broke Zverev in the tenth game to take the set 6-4.
“The match turned when he broke me I think for the first time in the third set,” said Zverev.” I think he started playing much better and I started playing much worse. That’s when the match turned. But I still had plenty of chances after that.”
The fourth set saw Thiem up his level and break serve in the eighth game and backed it up to take the set 6-3.
In the fifth set both men exchanged breaks in the first two games. The German broke again in the eighth game to serve for the match at 5-3, He failed to serve out the match and Thiem held to get to 5-5. Thiem broke to also serve for the match and failed to close.
Forward to the tiebreak, the first fifth set tiebreak to decide a US Open in its history. Zverev saved two match points, but Thiem prevailed 8-6 in the tiebreak.
“I was cramping in the tiebreaker really,” Zverev explained on why his serve was off in the tiebreak. “My left quad was cramping, I couldn’t push off anymore. I couldn’t actually hit the first serve anymore.”
“For him it was his first major finals,” Thiem said. “For him was the same like for me. We both didn’t face one of the big three, so I guess that was in the back of the head for both of us. That’s why we were on nerves. Was a very good chance for the both of us.
“I think it’s obvious that I was very tight in the beginning. In the end, of course, we are both experienced enough and we both know that in a fifth-set tiebreak anyone can win. I think it’s very understandable that we both didn’t play our highest tennis anymore.
“When he served for the match, I was struggling physically, but I also thought that he is not the freshest anymore. I was just hoping to maybe get another chance, that he’s not serving that huge anymore like he did in the beginning of the match.
“I played a great game there and brought myself back into the match.”
Was there a time in the match when Thiem thought that he could not come back?
“It was tough to stay there and to still believe,” Thiem admitted. “But I did, yeah. It’s a slam finals. I said myself, I mean, I’m playing bad, I’m way too tight, legs are heavy, arms are heavy.
“But I always had hope and the expectation that at one point I free up. Luckily it was not too late when I broke him back in the third set. The belief was always there. From that moment when I broke him back for I think it was 3-All in the third set, the belief got stronger and stronger.
“But the thing is that the belief in myself is not enough because Sascha, I’m sure he believed himself as well 100%. Two guys like that played a match against each other. That’s obviously how it finished, in a fifth-set tiebreak.”
“I was super close to being a Grand Slam champion,” Zverev said to media. “I was a few games away, maybe a few points away. For me what upset me the most is not the third set or something like that, it’s the fifth set. I had a lot of chances in the fifth set and didn’t use them.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m 23 years old. I don’t think it’s my last chance. I do believe that I will be a Grand Slam champion at some point.”
“The media put me as a favorite in that match. That was not how I went in. I know what Sascha is capable of. I always remembered also the tough match we had in Australia, which was completely open, which was on the edge the whole match.
“I went into it expecting a tough match, expecting an open match. Well, in the first two sets and a break down, it was one way for him, but as I said, never stopped believing, never stopped believing that I’m going to free up and start playing better at one point.
“Well, it doesn’t matter at the end who did I beat or which tournament it is. I mean, I just won a major and it’s just amazing.”
“I wish we could have two winners today.”
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 14, 2020
Thiem had 43 winners to 55 unforced errors to Zverev’s 52 winners and 64 unforced errors in the match.
“I wish we could have two winners today,” Thiem said during the trophy ceremony. “I think we both deserved it.”
Zverev teared up when he talked about his parents who were not at the tournament, in his on-court speech, but joked to Thiem, “I wish you would have missed a little bit more “but here I am, giving the runner’s-up speech.”
Zverev elaborated on his parents in his news conference: “They’re actually (COVID-19) negative already. That’s the reason they didn’t come here. But, yeah, I mean, look, losing 7-6 in the fifth after being two sets to love and a break up is not easy. At the speech, I mean, I got emotional. I couldn’t put two words together. I don’t actually remember what I said.”
“Yeah, it was a difficult moment for me.”
Thiem is the first new winner of a major on the men’s side since 2014 when Marin Cilic won the US Open.
Thiem, prominently known for his clay court prowess was asked about winning his first major on a hard court. “When I first realized that maybe one day I could really win a major was when I first broke into the semis of Roland Garros, when I broke into top 10. From that moment on I dreamed about it. I thought that it’s maybe realistic.
“Back then I thought my biggest chances by far are on clay. But then the end of last year somehow changed a lot of things when I won Beijing, when I won Vienna, when I played the great Nitto ATP Finals. Then I realized that my game is suiting the hard courts really well.
“Of course, since I’m working with Nico (Massu), we improved my game on hard court a lot. Also changed my mind that many shots are working great on that surface. So I think my best major until now US Open, I played in Australia. Now it’s not for me that big surprise any more that it’s not the French.”
“At the end it doesn’t matter to me. Main thing is that I have one of these four now.”
“I achieved a life goal, a dream of myself, which I had for many, many years. Of course, as a kid, as well, when I started to play tennis. But back then it’s so far away.
“Then I got closer and closer to the top. At one point I realized that, Wow, maybe one day I can really win one of the four biggest titles in tennis.
“I put a lot of work in. I mean, I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one of the four majors. Now I did it. That’s also for myself a great accomplishment.
“I mean, it’s by far not only myself, it’s an accomplishment from all my team, from all my family. I guess also today is the day where I gave back huge amount of what they did for me.”
More to follow….