Dominic Thiem completed an unprecedented comeback on Sunday at the US Open, rallying from two sets down and 3-5 in the fifth set to defeat Alexander Zverev 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6) for his maiden Grand Slam title.
This was the first US Open final to be decided by a fifth-set tie-break. Thiem, 27, is the first player in the Open Era to rally from two sets down in a US Open final. He also became the first Grand Slam champion born in the 1990s, along with the 55th Grand Slam champion of the Open Era and the 150th of all time.
”We started to know each other back in 2014 and straight away started to develop a great friendship… and then a great rivalry,” Thiem said.
“We’ve made great things happen on the court and off the court. It’s amazing how far our journey brought us to share this moment.
I wish we could have two winners today. We both deserved it.”
Thiem joined Thomas Muster (1995 Roland Garros) as the only Austrian men to win a major championship.
He lost his first three Grand Slam finals, most recently in an epic five-set battle to Novak Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open, reprots, ATP Tour.
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.
As the match moved deep into the fifth set, it became more about mental fortitude than technical skill.
Zverev fought through nerves by moving forward and was rewarded by breaking Thiem at 4-3 with an aggressive forehand approach.
But he tightened up when it came time to serve out the match.
A routine forehand error and ill-advised serve-and-volley play contributed to Zverev dropping serve.
He came within two points of victory in the next game, but Thiem ripped two big down-the-line forehand winners to even the score.
Emboldened by the comeback, Thiem broke Zverev once more at 5-5 after the fifth seed hit a forehand error.
With his maiden Grand Slam title one game away, it was the Austrian's turn to get nervous. Facing break point at 6-5, he floated slice backhands down the middle of the court and enabled Zverev to rip a forehand winner.
As they moved to a fifth-set tie-break, the punishing rallies began to affect Thiem physically.
He was unable to push off on his serve and often spun in first-serve deliveries under 100mph. Despite his hampered movement, two costly double faults from Zverev helped bring Thiem to a 6/4 lead and two championship points.
Thiem squandered the first by hitting a short forehand into the net and couldn’t capitalise on a 68mph second serve from Zverev at 6/5.
He managed to regroup and cracked a forehand passing shot at 6/6 for a third championship point.
The Austrian collapsed to the ground in delight after Zverev hit a backhand wide to wrap up play one minute over the four-hour mark.
Thiem won 163 points on the night compared to 159 for Zverev.