US Open men’s final: First Slam title on the line for Thiem & Zverev

  • Matt Trollope

For the first time in six years, men’s tennis will have a new major champion.

Sunday’s US Open men’s singles final will pit No.2 seed Dominic Thiem against fifth seed Alexander Zverev, a rematch of their Australian Open semifinal earlier in 2020.

Austria’s Thiem is appearing in a fourth major final, and first in New York, after stopping third seed Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the semifinals.

“If I win I have my first. If not, I have to call Andy Murray (and ask) how it is with 0-4,” Thiem joked in his subsequent on-court interview. 

Zverev will feature in his first, after improving on his AO 2020 semifinal finish – his previous best Grand Slam result. 

“I'm looking forward to it. I'm in the final of a Grand Slam,” Zverev said. 

“The two best players in the world are going to be playing on court.”

Since Marin Cilic broke through to win the 2014 title at Flushing Meadows, the men’s game has not seen another first-time major winner.

The sport’s four biggest trophies have been hoisted almost exclusively in that time by Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“The two best players in the world are going to be playing on court.”
Alexander Zverev

The ‘Big Three’ have combined to win the past 13 Grand Slam tournaments; the last player outside that trio to win a major was Stan Wawrinka at the 2016 US Open.

But with Federer, Nadal and Wawrinka not travelling to New York in 2020, Novak Djokovic’s fourth-round default and Cilic’s loss in the third round, a new champion was guaranteed.

Thiem and Zverev were the players to step up. Yet they did so in very different ways. 

Seeded second Thiem has played an exemplary tournament, dropping just one set all fortnight – notably, to Cilic.

He then routed young guns Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alex de Minaur before holding off Medvedev, last year’s finalist.

For the first time, Thiem will not face a member of the Big Three in a Grand Slam final; he lost his first two at Roland Garros to Nadal, before Djokovic stopped him in five at Melbourne Park in January.

“For me, it really doesn't matter whether it's him or one of the Big Three. I just try to go in there and give my best,” said Thiem, who leads the head-to-head series 7-2 over Zverev.

“I know what Sascha is capable of. Also the last match we had in Australia, we were both, I mean, really, really good. It was such a close match.

Dominic Thiem (R) won his last match against Alexander Zverev (L) in the AO 2020 semifinals. Thiem has won their past three meetings and leads the overall head-to-head 7-2, including 3-1 on hard courts and 3-0 at majors. (Getty Images)

“He's a hell of a player. One of the greatest ones in last years. Won all titles besides a major. He will also try everything what he's capable of doing to win the title. It's going to be a super difficult match.”

Unlike Thiem, Zverev has been forced to claw and scrap his way through his last few rounds to arrive where he has.

In his six match wins so far, just one has come in straight sets – his 6-2 6-2 6-1 fourth-round victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. 

In the quarterfinals he trailed Borna Coric 6-1 4-2, and in the semis he lost the first two sets in a dramatically off-colour display before recovering to beat Pablo Carreno Busta in five.

Nevertheless, Zverev – who has been tipped for major success since emerging on tour as a talented teenager – has shown impressive fighting qualities to continue his progress in New York.

“It's going to be a new Grand Slam champion, but it's going to be also a very difficult match I think,” said Zverev, who has not beaten Thiem on a hard court in almost four years.

“I'm looking forward to it. I'm just excited about it.”