NEW YORK: Austria’s Dominic Thiem finally claimed his maiden Grand Slam title with a stunning comeback to beat Germany’s Alexander Zverev 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6(6) in the US Open final on Sunday.
The 27-year-old world number three appeared to have blown his golden chance as he fell two sets behind but hit back to become the first player to win a Grand Slam from having trailed by two sets since Gaston Gaudio at the 2004 French Open.
Thiem started as favourite but was stifled by nerves early on, trailing by a set and 5-1 as his evening threatened to become a nightmare on an eerie, almost empty Arthur Ashe stadium.
He gradually broke the shackles to hit back from a break down to take the third set. Zverev faltered on serve at 3-4 in the fourth set allowing Thiem to take the contest to a decider. With one of the sport’s biggest prizes within reach, both men raised their games in a gripping decider.
The 23-year-old Zverev, bidding to become the first German male to win a Grand Slam since Boris Becker won in New York in 1996, showed great composure to resist Thiem. The match went deep into its fourth hour and became not just a physical battle but a psychological one too.
Zverev faltered with the title tantalisingly close but Thiem could not hold serve for glory at 6-5 as a US Open men’s final moved into its first-ever fifth set tiebreak.
“It’s amazing 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 opponent and close friend.
Thiem, the second Austrian to win a Grand Slam after Thomas Muster’s 1995 French Open title, had lost all three of his previous Grand Slam finals.
His two French Open finals were against Rafael 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.
This time the door had swung wide open for Thiem with Nadal opting out over concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, Roger Federer injured and Djokovic defaulted for hitting a line judge with a ball.
Thiem becomes the first player born in the 1990s to claim a men’s Grand Slam, and the first outside Nadal, Djokovic and Federer to claim one since Stan Wawrinka’s 2016 US Open triumph.