US Open Day 14: Thiem breaks through for first Slam

  • Matt Trollope

Dominic Thiem recovered from the brink to win his first Grand Slam title over Alexander Zverev at the US Open on Sunday.

In a fascinatingly psychological encounter full of momentum swings, Thiem trailed two sets to love, 3-5 in the third set, and 0-2 in the final tiebreak, yet secured a dramatic 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6(6) victory in more than four hours.

Earlier, Shingo Kunieda won his seventh US Open men’s wheelchair singles title by beating defending champion Alfie Hewett in a thriller, while Sam Schroder upstaged world No.1 Dylan Alcott to win the quad singles crown.

Thiem overcomes Zverev for first major crown

Unlike his two previous matches, Zverev came out looking sharp and aggressive against Thiem, who by contrast was completely flat with a game devoid of potency.

In the first set, Thiem landed only 37 per cent of his first serves, won 29 per cent of second serve points and produced just four winners to 16 from Zverev, who was playing much further up the court compared with previous rounds.

Zverev broke in the third and fifth games of the second set to take a 6-2 5-1 lead, but cracks had begun to appear in his game – in the form of double faults – as Thiem closed the gap to 5-4, saving four set points along the way.

Zverev nonetheless closed out the second set and went up an early break in the third, only for Thiem to stage a comeback.

The Austrian converted his fourth break point – as Zverev’s serving woes persisted – to break back for 2-2. Another break in the 10th game secured him the third set. 

Dominic Thiem (R) was appearing in his fourth Grand Slam final, while Alexander Zverev was making his major final debut. (Getty Images)

An 11th double fault from Zverev handed Thiem a break point in the eighth game of the fourth, which he converted.

Looking increasingly energised, Thiem held to love to send the match into a fifth, where he broke serve in the very first game against a dispirited Zverev. Yet against the tide, Thiem coughed up his own double fault to hand the break straight back. 

A more vocal and demonstrative Zverev surged ahead 5-3 after rushing the net and forcing an error.

"I really wish we could have had two winners today. We both deserved it.”
Dominic Thiem

Zverev served for the title – and was broken. Thiem won three straight games to move ahead 6-5, earning himself a chance to serve for the title – and was broken.

Physically wilting, Thiem fell behind 2-0 in the tiebreak yet found a second wind to arrive at two championship points – only to miss forehands on both. At 6-6, he found another forehand winner to earn a third, and this time he converted when Zverev steered a backhand wide.

After getting closer to the title in each of his previous three Grand Slam final appearances, this marked an emotional breakthrough.

Reaction to Thiem's triumph

Kunieda wins US Open for major title No.24

Top seed Kunieda was facing the two-time defending champion in Hewett, a player who had beaten him in the 2018 final and the quarterfinals the year prior.

But the Brit could not stop the Japanese star for a third time in a row.

In a gripping match, the world No.1 outlasted the third-ranked Hewett in a match lasting almost three hours, winning 6-3 3-6 7-6(3).

It marks Kunieda’s first US Open title since 2015 yet his second straight Slam, after his triumph at AO 2020.

Kunieda, who first rose to world No.1 in 2007, now owns 24 Grand Slam singles titles. 

Schroeder stuns Alcott in quad final

Dutch wildcard Schroder scored a huge upset with a three-set victory in the quad final over world No.1 Alcott.

Alcott was playing for his 11th major title and second straight in 2020, after winning his sixth consecutive trophy at Melbourne Park. 

Yet Schroder, who could only watch as Alcott won eight games in a row in the middle of the match, recovered from 0-2 down in the third set to upstage the Australian 7-6(5) 0-6 6-4.

It was a reversal of their result from three days earlier; Alcott beat Schroder in straight sets in the round-robin stage of the tournament.

Quotes of the day

"I really wish we could have had two winners today. We both deserved it.”
- Dominic Thiem

"I don't know where to start. It was a tough battle – I wished you could have missed a little bit more so I could've held that trophy up. But here I am, giving the runners-up speech.”
- Alexander Zverev to Thiem

"I remember when we played Madrid (in the 2018 final); you told me that I'm gonna make it, I'm gonna win this title. And I tell you the same, now, here. You're gonna make it 100 per cent.”
- Thiem to Zverev

"I miss them (my parents) ... I'm sure they're sitting at home (watching) and even though I lost they're pretty proud and I wish one day that I can bring the trophy home."
- an emotional Zverev

"We started to know each other back in 2014, I think we were both ranked somewhere close to 100 or something, and developed straight away a great friendship. And then 2016 I think our great rivalry started ... we made great things happen on the court. It's amazing how far away our journey brought us to share this moment.”
- Thiem to Zverev

Stats of the day

Thiem, the first Austrian to win a Grand Slam singles title since Thomas Muster at Roland Garros in 1995, became the first man in 71 years to recover from two-sets-to-love down in a US Open final.

The last time anyone did it in a Grand Slam final was in 2004, when Gaston Gaudio roared back to stun Guillermo Coria.

In the first US Open final ever to be decided by a fifth-set tiebreak, Thiem earned his first Grand Slam title from his fourth major final.

Zverev, meanwhile, slips to 0-8 in matches against top-10 opponents at major tournaments.