Dominic Thiem rallies to beat Alexander Zverev for US Open titleby Marc Berman
It was the weekend of comebacks at the U.S. Open — a fitting tone for a city that made one helluva COVID comeback.
The Twilight Zone version of the fan-less Open concluded in a fifth-set tiebreaker in four hours.
The Austrian Dominic Thiem rallied from two sets down to post a five-set 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) victory over German Alexander Zverev Sunday at the fan-less Ashe Stadium.
It’s been known for a week there would be a first-time Grand Slam champion after Novak Djokovic’s ejection. That person turned out to be the Austrian second seed who came in with a 7-2 record against the big-serving German.
It ended with Zverev hitting a backhand long as the cramping Austrian then fell on his back.
The fifth-set tiebreak matches the five-set win by Thiem over Zverev in the Australian Open semifinals. Thiem also rallied from 2-0 in the fifth-set tiebreaker as he appeared to start cramping up too.
For two sets, Thiem pounded his famous forehand deep and he looked oddly detached in his fourth Grand Slam final before buckling in. Zverev started to show nerves late in the second set, blowing a 5-1 lead, but he held on to take a two-sets-to-none lead.
The momentum had shifted by then as Thiem reverted to his rock-solid baseline form to become the first Austrian to win a Grand Slam since Tomas Muster won the 1995 French Open.
The Austrian comeback capped a successfully healthy if controversial Open. While the world’s best player was disqualified, it was not because of COVID-19 but being tossed for accidently flicking a tennis ball into a lineswoman’s neck.
No players tested positive once the first ball was struck two weeks ago. The Flushing tennis center have come a long way since being a harbor for COVID-19 patients in April — as did New York City, once the world’s hotspot.
“At the end we reflect back and say it’s safe, it’s been good for tennis, and it’s been financially good for the players and the tennis ecosystem,’’ USTA CEO Michael Dowse said.
In the fifth set that was classic, Thiem was up a break but double-faulted to let Zverev get the marathon back on serve.
With Zverev up 4-3 in the fifth, he posted a break point which he captured by making a wearier Thiem run for a backhand the Austrian unleashed wide. Zverev attempted to serve out the match but got broken instead. It went to 5-5 in the fifth set — exceeding all expectations. The tennis kept getting better and better.
Thiem then broke Zverev for a 6-5 lead, outlasting the German with a long rally that saw an exhausted Zverev pound the ball well long on break point.