US OPEN: Stunning comeback makes tennis history

 

Dominic Thiem has made history by becoming the first man in the Open era to come back from two sets down and win the US Open.

The Austrian launched a stunning comeback to secure his first ever grand slam title with a 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 win over Alexander Zverev, who was devastated after blowing the chance to lift the major trophy he's been desperately searching for.

Commentators accused Thiem of playing "shockingly bad" in the opening two sets as he failed to fire a shot, wrecked by nerves in his fourth grand slam final. He somehow clawed his way back to win the third set despite not finding his fluent best, before kicking into gear in the fourth as his confidence soared.

Both players broke each other in the first two games of the fifth set before Zverev broke a second time for 5-3. But a series of unforced errors and two incredible down-the-line forehand winners from Thiem brought him back from the brink and the 27-year-old broke again for a 6-5 lead.

But Zverev wasn't done, summoning everything he had to drag the decider into a tiebreak. However, that's where his fight ended as Thiem sealed the breaker to cement his place in history.

FIFTH SET: DRAMATIC START TO DECIDER

Thiem broke Zverev in the first game of the fifth set before his 22-year-old rival broke right back as the decider started in dramatic fashion.

From there, things settled as both players held their next two service games to lock things up at 3-3.

But Zverev held, then broke for 5-3 to serve for the championship. However, in another wild twist, Thiem broke himself to stay in the match as Zverev recorded two forehand errors, one backhand bungle and a serve and volley that didn't go to plan.

Two incredible down-the-line winners from Thiem brought the score to 5-5 as both players held on for dear life.

FOURTH SET: THIEM COMEBACK IN FULL SWING

Here we go, folks.

Thiem was finally looking a little more settled and like he could actually push Zverev.

The German didn't drop his level too much but Thiem was simply playing far better - and looking more confident - as the fourth set started on serve, moving to 2-2.

Zverev secured a vital hold when facing two break points to keep things even at 3-3.

The momentum was definitely starting to shift as Thiem came charging back, breaking Zverev to go up 5-3 courtesy of the world No. 7's double fault at deuce followed by an unforced error.

Thiem made no mistake on serve, holding to love to square things up at two sets apiece.

 

 

THIRD SET: THIEM COMES FROM 'OUT OF NOWHERE'

It wasn't pretty, but Thiem did enough to claim the third set 6-4 and keep his hopes alive as Zverev failed to show the same composure that served him well previously.

Zverev continued the pattern of the opening two sets by breaking early, going up 2-1 but Thiem hit back immediately with a break of his own to level things up.

The world No. 3 still wasn't looking completely comfortable but was doing enough to stay in the fight, holding a couple of lengthy, crucial service games to take a 5-4 lead and put the onus on his opponent to save the set on his racquet.

Zverev faltered and was broken, sending the match into a fourth set.

The Tennis Podcast's official Twitter account said Thiem's comeback came "out of nowhere".

SECOND SET: ZVEREV CHARGES ON AS THIEM COLLAPSES

Thiem's struggles continued early in the second set as Zverev went up a break for a 2-1 lead, then compounded the Austrian's woes with another break that saw him surge to 4-1.

Commentator Jose Morgado tweeted: "Thiem playing shockingly bad. Almost tough to watch."

UK tennis scribe George Bellshaw wrote: "Hard to believe how bad Dominic Thiem has been tonight given the level he's shown this tournament."

Thiem saved three set points to stay in the hunt - albeit just - as he held for 2-5 then secured his first break of the match as Zverev failed to serve things out. The German butchered an easy forehand volley on set point then a double fault gave Thiem an opening and he took it, showing his first signs of life.

But there was to be no miracle comeback and Zverev kept his cool on serve to claim the set 6-4.

 

Thiem had no answers.
Thiem had no answers.

FIRST SET: TENNIS TRANSFIXED AS ZVEREV TRANSFORMS

Zverev settled first, breaking Thiem in the third game of the first set to take a 2-1 lead.

"Big surprise in the early going: Zverev's forehand," tweeted NY Times tennis writer Christopher Clarey. "It's good."

Zverev forced Thiem's next service game to deuce too before the Austrian prevailed - but he was looking a little nervous.

"Thiem's tight right now. He's got to start taking a little off his first serve and get his percentage up," John McEnroe said in commentary for ESPN.

Zverev was awful for the first two sets of his semi-final against Pablo Carreno Busta in a low-quality match but he's like a completely different player against Thiem. The German was far more aggressive, played with a lot more freedom and attacked the net more frequently.

Tennis writer Zenia D'cunha tweeted: "I did not see this happening so early but proves once again that Sascha without pressure is a whole different player.

"Who is this and what happened to the Zverev from the semi-final?"

The Tennis Podcast added: "Really strong start from Zverev. Much more aggressive than in his previous matches."

Zverev showed none of his usual wobbles on serve to close out the opening set 6-2 with an ace in half an hour.

Tennis reporter Tumaini Carayol reacted to the opening set by writing: "Sixteen winners, six unforced errors, 92% first serve points won. 7/8 net points won. This is different."

 

 

PRE-MATCH: THE FUTURE OF TENNIS IS FINALLY HERE

Thiem joked after his straight-sets semi-final victory over Daniil Medvedev that if he loses, he might have to contact a multiple-slam winner who lost four finals before winning his first, and then going on to win two more.

"If I win, I have my first. If not, I probably have to call Andy Murray (about) how it is with zero," the Austrian said ahead of the showdown inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Monday's showpiece brings to a close a US Open unlike any other - the coronavirus pandemic meant no fans have been allowed into Flushing Meadows and players have been tested for COVID-19 regularly.

This year's field at the Billie Jean King US National Tennis Center in New York was also depleted by the absence of Swiss legend Roger Federer and defending champion Rafael Nadal.

The tournament was also blown wide open by the disqualification of world number one and heavy favourite Novak Djokovic in the last 16 for hitting a line judge with the ball.

It means the 2020 US Open will crown a first-time Grand Slam champion for the first time since Croatian Marin Cilic won at Flushing Meadows in 2014.

It also means a Grand Slam champion other than Djokovic, Nadal or Federer for the first time since Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka won the third of his majors at the 2016 US Open.

For Thiem, also a runner-up at the French Open in 2018 and 2019, it is a golden opportunity to clinch that elusive first Slam title.

"It's the biggest goal and also the biggest dream I have in my tennis career since a few years," said Thiem, who lost in five sets to Djokovic in Melbourne this year.

"It was really tough to digest that loss in Australia as I was super close back then. I'm happy that I gave myself a pretty short time after that (for) another chance."

 

Thiem is 7-2 against Zverev, with whom he says he has a "a great friendship and a great rivalry," including a four-set win in the semi-finals during that run to the Melbourne finals.

Thiem admits there is "huge pressure," with both he and Zverev "working very hard since a long time" to enter the pantheon of slam champions.

"I expect a very tough, very open match," said the world number three. "His first serve is one of, if not, the best out there right now. It's so fast, so precise. That will be a key point. Try to put many balls back in play." Zverev is the first German man to reach the final of a tennis major since Rainer Schuttler at the 2003 Australian Open.

He is also bidding to become the first German to win the US Open since Boris Becker in 1989.

Zverev has looked less convincing than Thiem throughout his run to the final, at times struggling with second serves and groundstroke forehands.

But he will be brimming with confidence after coming from two sets down for the first time in his career to beat Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta and reach the final.

He also has, arguably, less to lose.

"I have a chance. I'm looking forward to it. I'm just excited about it," said Zverev, the world number seven.

- AFP

Originally published as Really wild climax in US Open thriller



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