New York (AP) – Alexander Zverev just missed the first Grand Slam title of his career after a nerve-racking five-set match.
The 23-year-old tennis professional lost on Sunday evening in New York in the final to the Austrian Dominic Thiem in five rounds despite a 2-0 set lead and missed the big chance for the first German title at one of the four most important tournaments since Boris Becker in 1996 Australian Open.
“I don’t know where to start. Congratulations on the first of many Grand Slam titles. You should have made a few more mistakes,” said Zverev at the awards ceremony. “There are some important people missing today. I want to thank my parents,” said Zverev, before his voice gave out and he could no longer hold back tears. “I had to shed a tear from Sascha. That is the maximum penalty for losing the final this way and not being able to have your loved ones. But Germany is proud of you,” said Eurosport expert Becker, predicting: “Sascha comes back, the future is his. “
Zverev had to admit defeat after 4:01 a.m. with 6: 2, 6: 4, 4: 6, 3: 6, 6: 7 (6: 8). 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 frenetic Austrian used his third match point. “I wish there could be two winners today,” Thiem told Zverev, “You will make it too and make your parents and your family proud. You will bring the trophy home at some point.”
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 having shot a line judge frustrated 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.
At the end of the hour-long rollercoaster ride, Thiem fell back onto 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.
German tennis legend Boris Becker had been optimistic for the highly anticipated final that Zverev would use the moment in the first Grand Slam final of his career – and it looked forward to it for a long time. “The semi-finals at the Australian Open were very important to him and to his confidence. There is no reason why he should not win the match today,” said the Eurosport expert. Numerous former top athletes such as Sven Hannawald, Fabian Hambüchen or Anni Friesinger-Postma had wished Zverev luck in video messages before the match, and FC Bayern also wished the outspoken fan of the three-time winner all the best.
Zverev got off to a brilliant start at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is almost deserted due to strict hygiene conditions. Unlike the two previous matches, when the German number one started to wait and hesitated and always lost the first set, Zverev was there from the start, surprising his buddy Thiem with aggressive and courageous tennis. At 2: 1 Zverev took the serve from the visibly nervous Austrian, to 5: 2 he succeeded again. After half an hour, Zverev got the first set 6-2.
The resident of Hamburg took the dream calmly. He looked a little incredulous at his opponent, four years older than him, whom he had previously called “my best friend on the tour”. Zverev remained very focused and was not bothered by the fact that Thiem apparently was not moving as well as usual.
At the start of the second section he also managed to make a quick break to make it 2-1, Zverev decided what happened at will. The German number one drove to 5: 1, but then became clearly nervous. The number seven in the world missed four set balls and also lost his service for the first time in this match. Thiem now felt his chance, also because Zverev made some small mistakes. But Zverev kept his nerves and got passage number two with the fifth set ball.
But just a sentence away from the big dream, Zverev became more and more nervous. Aggressiveness and self-evidence were lost, the error rate increased. Because Thiem also stayed well below his level, sometimes an endgame developed at a moderate level. Thiem took advantage of it and took the third set. Zverev did not seem shocked at first and kept the fourth round open. Both players now improved again and finally delivered an exciting exchange of blows.
Thiem equalized the set and also took the lead with a break in the deciding set. 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 gave the re-break to 5: 4. It was finally a first-class match that found a worthy end in the tie-break – with the final furioso for Thiem, who was plagued by cramps.