The first Grand Slam arrives for Thiem 0:26
(CNN) – He finished an atypical US Open, fittingly, with an out of the ordinary final.
Dominic Thiem became the first player in the open era – which began in 1968 – to come back from two sets down and win a US Open final when he beat his friend, Alexander Zverev, 2-6 4-6 6-4 6 -3 7-6 (6) at New York on Sunday.
It hadn’t been done at all since 1949.
And there were more news. The popular Austrian became the first new men’s Grand Slam champion since Marin Cilic in 2014 and was the first tiebreaker in the fifth set in a final at the US Open.
Thiem somehow prevailed in the four-hour match despite appearing to suffer from leg cramps during the tiebreaker.
Zverev, unbelievably, lost in straight sets after coming back two sets against to beat Pablo Carreno Busta in the semifinals. Also, he led by a break in the third, but more devastatingly for him, he couldn’t pull the match at 5-3 in the fifth.
You could understand her tears during the trophy presentation.
A tournament marked by comebacks
Perhaps Thiem’s recovery was not a surprise, as big comebacks marked the final three days of the tournament. In Saturday’s women’s final, Naomi Osaka cleared a set and nearly a hole 3-0 to beat Victoria Azarenka.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal skipped the same major for the first time since 1999 and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic was suspended in the fourth round for hitting a ball that inadvertently hit a linesman in the throat.
But even more unusual than this year was that the US Open was held without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic but with a bubble in place.
Thiem could have benefited from the absence of the legendary Big Three, but the 27-year-old has knocked each of them down at least four times.
A Grand Slam title was looming, given his place in three other finals in the majors.
Also on paper he had a more difficult draw than Zverev, who did not face an enemy ranked among the 25 before Sunday.
Reporters will no doubt ask Thiem if an Achilles tendon injury suffered in the semifinals against 2019 finalist Daniil Medvedev contributed to his nervous and lethargic start. However, it wouldn’t be the type to say if it was.
But seventh-ranked Zverev, who struggled in his two previous matches as the heavy favorite, managed the first two sets in his first Grand Slam final.
When the ATP came up with its NextGen motto several years ago to promote its young stars, he was the leader of the class.
A match with many twists
The 23-year-old logged more than 209 kilometers, a forehand hit more than 160 kilometers per hour and combined attacking tennis with counterattack. He even served and volleyed successfully, taking advantage of Thiem’s deep return position. But 15 double faults eventually undid it.
The only risky moment for Zverev in the first two sets came in the middle of the second. A combination of Thiem’s bold tennis and Zverev’s double faults – they have been a problem for him – reduced the 5-1 lead to 5-4.
However, on his fifth set point, Zverev officially took a two-set lead. It got even better for him when he broke 2-1 in the third.
But now, under the pressure of trying to close the match, Zverev’s level dropped and Thiem’s rose.
Thiem broke immediately and then broke again at 5-4 to lead to a fourth set.
Thiem set a break point at 2-3 after winning one of the tournament points, quickly defending around the court before throwing a forehand pass down the line. In the absence of the fans, his entourage continued to roar. He didn’t break there, but he did it at 4-3.
Thiem has the ability to crush opponents with his power play and when he broke 1-0 in the fifth it looked like it was about to happen once again.
But suddenly in the favorite position, as he was at the beginning, he doubled down to 1-1.
Then came another great point, at 0-15. This time it was Zverev who defended heroically before a winning volley with a fierce backhand from Thiem.
Zverev routinely pressured them on serve thereafter and earned his reward at 4-3 when Thiem was forced to make a backhand error.
As the pressure changed, so did the score. Zverev broke at 5-3 and Thiem produced magic to escape 15-30 at 4-5, culminating the game with a sizzling forehand pass.
Zverev sank, understandably, and missed a forehand to fall behind 5-6.
But the twists weren’t over.
Thiem suffered and called the coach. He was not moving freely, he was broken himself and followed by a mini-break early in the tiebreaker.
Two double faults by Zverev gave him some breathing space and Thiem built a 6-4 lead. The first two match points were erased. In the first, Thiem missed a right-wing keeper with Zverev stranded.
But at 6-6, he threw a pass shot to earn a third championship point. He then sealed it on a backhand error and sank onto the court.
Thiem joked that he might have to call Andy Murray if he loses on Sunday, as the Scotsman lost his first four Grand Slam finals.
Maybe you still want to call Murray. They can chat about what it feels like to lift a Grand Slam trophy.