‘I achieved a life goal,’ says US Open winner Dominic Thiem after lifting his maiden Grand Slam
Dominic Thiem defeated Alexander Zverev and his own anxieties in a dramatic US Open final to win his first Grand Slam title and realise a lifelong dream.
The 27-year-old becomes the first man for more than 70 years to recover from two sets to love down to win the final in New York, putting on a display of mental and physical resilience to prevail 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6).
Both men served for the match in a nerve-shredding fifth set but in the end it needed the first ever deciding tie-break in a US Open men’s final to divide them.
Nothing like the first time. pic.twitter.com/L37DgGPNan
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 14, 2020
The nerves for both men were palpable with so much at stake but it was Thiem who finally stumbled across the finish line on his third match point despite barely being able to walk.
It was the Austrian’s fourth Grand Slam final after two losses to Rafael Nadal at the French Open and one to Novak Djokovic in Australia, and he admitted: “I was so tight in the beginning.
“Maybe it was not even good that I played in previous major finals. 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.”
Thiem received treatment for an Achilles problem during his semi-final victory over Daniil Medvedev but it was a cramp that almost derailed him in the final set.
At the moment of victory he collapsed to the court in elation and exhaustion before sharing a hug with a disconsolate but sporting Zverev.
It was against protocol but it was hard to criticise the two friends who had just endured the most emotionally-draining four hours of their lives.
Thiem said: “Definitely 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.
It had to be like this – my career was always like the match today – many ups and downs and I love the way it turned out. pic.twitter.com/ksFDgIfws8
— Dominic Thiem (@ThiemDomi) September 14, 2020
“Then I got closer and closer to the top. At one point I realised 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 dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one of the four majors. Now I did it.”
Zverev was playing in his first slam final and had unshackled the nerves that crippled him for two sets against Pablo Carreno Busta in the semi-finals.
At two sets and a break up, he was within touching distance of the trophy, but somehow the feeling remained that it was far from finished.
Partly that was due to Zverev’s ongoing second serve issues, and the double faults racked up as Thiem gradually dragged him into a dogfight.
When the Austrian moved a break ahead early in the decider, it seemed the script was written, but it had to be torn up several more times before the final shot was hit.
“It was tough to stay there and to still believe,” said Thiem. “But I did. It’s S slam finals. I said to myself, ‘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. From that moment, the belief got stronger and stronger.”
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