New York (AP) – After the defeat in the nerve-racking US Open final and the broken dream of the first Grand Slam title of his career, Alexander Zverev cried.
When the 23-year-old from Hamburg thought of his parents at home in Monte Carlo after the initially bizarre and ultimately spectacular and first-class five-line thriller at the awards ceremony, his voice faltered. “There are some important people who are missing today. I want to thank my parents,” Zverev said before starting to cry. His mother and father had tested positive for Corona and therefore had not made the trip to New York as usual.
Despite a 2-0 set lead, Zverev had to admit defeat to his Austrian buddy Dominic Thiem after 4:01 hours 6: 2, 6: 4, 4: 6, 3: 6, 6: 7 (6: 8). “I was almost Grand Slam champion. I was a few games, maybe a few points,” Zverev said when he appeared on the video press conference more than two hours after the match point. “I had a lot of chances in the fifth set and didn’t take them. But I’m 23 years old, I don’t think it was my last chance. I think I’ll ever win a Grand Slam,” said Zverev.
For 27-year-old Thiem, it was the fourth attempt at the first Grand Slam victory. He is the first player in 16 years to win the title in a Grand Slam final after a 2-0 set deficit. In the tie-break, the Austrian, plagued by cramps, used his third match point. “I wish there could be two winners today,” said Thiem. But despite an excellent start and tremendous fighting skills, Zverev missed the great chance of winning the first German title in one of the four most important tournaments since Boris Becker at the Australian Open in 1996. For a long time it was not a first-class final, by the end the action dramatic.
“I’ve seen thousands of matches. But I’ve never seen anything like it,” Becker said on the Eurosport TV channel. After Thiem equalized the set, he took the lead with a break in the deciding fifth round. But Zverev, as so often, showed the heart of a great hunter and immediately took over Thiem’s serve.
The German number one pushed forward loudly and took the lead again. He made the break to 5: 3, but immediately received the re-break to 5: 4 – instead of finishing with his own serve to 6: 3 and winning the title. It eventually went into the tiebreaker. Both players suffered from cramps. At the third match point, a backhand from Zverev landed off the track.
At the end of the rollercoaster ride of several hours, Thiem fell back on the blue hard court and put his hands over his face. Zverev went to the other end of the network, honestly congratulating his opponent and hugging him, not quite Corona compliant.
Thiem is the first Grand Slam champion since Swiss Stan Wawrinka at the US Open 2016, who is not called Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. Nadal and Federer did not start in Flushing Meadows this year, Djokovic was disqualified in the round of 16 for shooting a linesman in frustration with the ball. That paved the way for a winner outside of the Big Three. Zverev missed the big opportunity, while Thiem finally fulfilled his big dream. In the tenth game between the two, it was Zverev’s eighth loss.
After a dream start, he took the lead 2-0. “Sometimes I played very badly”, Thiem said at the start of the game about his nervousness. But just a sentence away from the big dream, Zverev was now getting more and more nervous. Aggression and self-evidence were lost, the error rate increased. Thiem took advantage of it and got sets three and four. Both players now increased significantly and delivered a thrilling exchange of blows – with the better ending for Thiem.