Thiem claims US Open title after thrilling fightback

Tanya Simon
September 14, 2020

His two French Open finals were against Rafa Nadal, a 12-times champion on the Paris clay, while at this year's Australia Open he was beaten in five stunning sets by world number one Novak Djokovic.

Physically wilting, Thiem fell behind 2-0 in the tiebreak yet found a second wind to arrive at two championship points - only to miss forehands on both.

The Austrian not only won his first Grand Slam title, he did it from two sets down and became the first man after 71 years and first in Open Era to complete that kind of comeback at Flushing Meadows.

It will be the 27-year-old Thiem's fourth major tennis final and his second in a row after reaching the last-two in Australia this year, while Zverev, 23, is playing his first.

It also means a Grand Slam champion other than Djokovic, Nadal or Federer for the first time since Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka won the third of his majors at the 2016 US Open. "I think we both deserved it", said Thiem.

When a backhand from Zverev landed wide on the third championship point, a tired Thiem dropped to his back way behind the baseline and covered his face with his hands.

Zverev faltered on serve at 3-4 in a high-quality fourth set allowing Thiem to take the contest to a decider.

The fifth set was just as back-and-forth as the other four, the mistakes rising with the tension and the history in the offing.

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Thiem, who was cramping late on, squandered two match points from 6-4 up and on the cusp of glory but he finally came through to snatch victory away from Zverev in dramatic fashion after four hours and two minutes.

"It's wonderful how far our journeys brought us to share this moment and I wish - really I wish - we could have two winners today, I think we both deserved it", Thiem said on court after a tearful speech from his crestfallen opponent and close friend.

"His first serve is one of, if not, the best out there right now". Thiem won three straight games to move ahead 6-5, earning himself a chance to serve for the title - and was broken.

Things are never usually straightforward though, especially at Flushing Meadows. In a curious parallel, Zverev balanced his 15 aces with 15 double-faults, and Thiem had eight in each category.

The U.S. Open was preceded at its site by the Western & Southern Open, which moved from OH to NY as part of a "controlled environment" to limit travel.

Dominic Thiem of Austria celebrates with the championship trophy after winning in a tie-breaker during his Men's Singles final match against Alexander Zverev of Germany on Day Fourteen of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 13, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City.

Thiem - barely, just barely - was the one who took advantage of the chance to sneak into the club of champions.

This time, with Nadal opting out over concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, Roger Federer injured and top seed Djokovic defaulted last Sunday for hitting a line judge with a ball, the door had swung wide open for Thiem.

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