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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Thiem triumphs ! ~ Zverev wins hearts


The US Open bears little resemblance to the tournament started in 1881. It has evolved from an exclusive men's singles and doubles tournament in Newport, R.I., to a two-week sports and entertainment extravaganza held in Flushing, N.Y. .. everything is irrelevant other than the fact that even during the tough Covid times, this year’s tournament was conducted and concluded – though without fans on site. 

Dominic Thiem surely knew the question was coming, so he addressed it front and center.  After dismissing Russian Daniil Medvedev and reaching his fourth Grand Slam final at the 2020 US Open, the 27-year-old Austrian talked about the elephant in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Thiem has played in three major finals, and Thiem has lost three major finals, becoming only the fifth man in the Open era to start 0-3 in Grand Slam title matches.  His elite company are : Andre Agassi (went on to have 8-7 record in major singles); Goran Ivanisevic, my favourite Ivan Lendl (8-11 but none at Wimbledon – grass is for cows !); Andy Murray.  

Speaking on Friday night, Thiem already knew his next steps should he lose against Germany’s Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final and fall to 0-4 in Grand Slam title matches. “If I win, I have my first,” Thiem said. “If not, I probably have to call Andy Murray.”  Murray and former coach Ivan Lendl are the only men who started their careers 0-4 in major singles finals. But both went on to win multiple Grand Slam titles. “It’s easy for Andy because he has won three in the meantime,” Thiem said.  How quickly Thiem brought up Murray’s poor start in title matches leads one to wonder if Thiem’s 0-3 start has played on his mind.

While it was Thiem’s fourth entry in a final, for Zverev it was debut !  Thiem, the No.2 seed and World No.3, became the first Austrian to claim a singles title at Flushing Meadows, albeit in unique circumstances as no fans were present at the hardcourt major due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Austrian also made history after the astonishing come back, which was the first time at the US Open since 1949 when a men’s player had come back from two-sets down to win the US Open final. Thiem is also the first grand slam champion other than Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer since Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka won the third of his majors at the 2016 US Open.

The second seeded Austrian beat the fifth seed 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) in four hours and two minutes in the first US Open final settled by a tie-break. Dominic Thiem produced a historic comeback to beat Alexander Zverev in a nervy five-setter and win the US Open on Sunday for his first Grand Slam title. It marked the first time in the US Open’s Open era history that a player had recovered from losing the opening two sets to win the title. It was also the first time the final had been settled by a tie-break. “I wish we could have two winners today. I think we both deserved it,” said Thiem.


 Here's how the historic tiebreaker transpired: Zverev double faults at 2-1—and follows it with a giant, unreturned serve for 3-2. The German runs around his backhand—the same way he broke Thiem in the previous game—but this forehand goes long. 3-3. Thiem follows the error with a bomb serve for 4-3. Still on serve. Then, Zverev's second-serve woe, often mentioned in pressure moments, rears its head. He double faults and serves at 3-5. Another second serve comes—but this time, he wins the point, keeping Thiem within reach. At 5-4, an all-court point is played. Zverev appears to have Thiem on the run, but he recovers, setting up a forehand pass for double match point. On his first match point, Thiem hits a big forehand crosscourt, moving Zverev out of position, but he put the short forehand down the line into the net. Returning at 5-6, Thiem sees a 68 m.p.h. Zverev second serve. He doesn't do much with it, but he eventually gets a look an another forehand down the line. It's not as clean as his last opportunity, and he puts the shot wide. 6-6.  On that point, Zverev comes to net and does well to hit two volleys back, but Thiem passes him for a third championship point.

German Alexander Zverev may have suffered a gut-wrenching defeat to his rival and long-time friend Austrian Dominic Thiem in the US Open Final, but he showed unbelievable class with a ‘beautiful’ gesture right after the loss. But, despite the agonising defeat, Zverev showed how much he values his friendship with Thiem in an unbelievable moment of sportsmanship right before embracing him seconds after the loss. Thiem collapsed to the floor with a mixture of joy and exhaustion after winning the fifth-set tie break to hand him the US Open 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6.  Zverev, who could have been forgiven if he met Thiem at the net following the gut-wrenching loss, showed enormous class to walk over to his friend and congratulate him with their ‘special’ handshake. Zverev then embraced Thiem as the pair trudged back towards their chairs and collapsed overwhelmed with emotion. The German’s sportsmanship was made all the more respectable when cameras captured him devastated and in shock sitting on his chair just a few seconds later.

Fans also felt for Zverev when he broke down in his post-match speech and struggled to talk because of the disappointment. Thiem later praised his friend: "I wish we could have two winners today. I think we both deserved it.” Fans not only couldn’t get enough of the ‘special handshake’ but praised Zverev for putting his friendship with Thiem above his disappointment.

It was a scrappy affair, with both players desperate to win their first Slams. Zverev smashed 15 aces compared to Thiem’s two. But the German also hit 15 double faults, with Thiem hitting eight. Zverev hit more winners 52 to 43, but also more unforced errors, with 65 to 55.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar




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