The 27-year-old from Austria became the first man in 71 years to win the U.S. Open after dropping the first two sets of the final.
At a U.S. Open unlike any other, Dominic Thiem constructed a comeback the likes of which hadn’t been seen in 71 years.
After dropping the opening two sets against Alexander Zverev on Sunday at a nearly empty Arthur Ashe Stadium — fans were banned because of the coronavirus pandemic — Thiem slowly but surely turned things around for a 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory across more than four hours to earn his first major championship.
The 27-year-old from Austria is the first man to win the American Grand Slam tournament after trailing 2-0 in sets in the final since Pancho Gonzalez did it against Ted Schroeder in 1949 at an event then known as the U.S. Championships.
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Not only that, but in a fitting finish to an unprecedented two weeks, this match was decided by a fifth-set tiebreaker, something that had never happened in the final.
When it ended on a groundstroke flubbed by Zverev, a weary Thiem collapsed on his back way behind the baseline. Zverev — who himself came within two points of the victory — walked around the net to offer a handshake and hug to his pal, two gestures rarely spotted in this era of social distancing.
Dominic Thiem of Austria celebrates with the championship trophy after winning in a tie-breaker during his Men’s Singles final match against Alexander Zverev of Germany on Day 14 of the 2020 U.S. Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 13, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York City. Al Bello / Getty Images
Thiem had come in 0-3 in Grand Slam finals, but always came up against Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in those others. This time, he was the favorite and came out jittery, but eventually worked his way out of that, while Zverev went from cool and confident to passive and pushed around.
The fifth set was just as back-and-forth as…
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