A US Open unlike any other finished unlike any other — with an unprecedented fifth-set tiebreaker as Dominic Thiem became the first man in 71 years to win the tournament final after dropping the opening two sets.
So close to defeat in a nearly empty Arthur Ashe Stadium — fans were banned because of the coronavirus pandemic — Thiem slowly but surely turned things around against a faltering Alexander Zverev and surged to a 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory at Flushing Meadows to earn his first Grand Slam title.
When a backhand from Zverev landed wide on the third championship point, a weary Thiem dropped to his back way behind the baseline and covered his face with his hands. When he arose, he was met by Zverev, who walked around the net to clasp hands, then embrace his friend and foe, two sights rarely seen in this era of social distancing.
Thiem then rested his head on the shoulder of the taller Zverev, a 23-year-old from Germany who himself came within two points of what would have been his first major triumph.
“I wish we could have two winners today,” Thiem said. “I think w
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 Gonzales did it against Ted Schroeder in 1949 at an event then known as the U.S. Championships and held in Forest Hills.
“I wish you would have missed a little bit more so I could have held that trophy up,” Zverev said, choking up when he mentioned his parents, “but here I am, giving the runner’s-up speech.”
As Thiem stepped forward to pose for pictures with his shiny new bit of hardware, Zverev remained a few feet behind, one hand clutching his less-impressive silver tray, the other hand on a hip.
The proceedings took 4 hours, 2 minutes. And to think: After just 1½ hours, Zverev was up by two sets and a break in the third at 2-1.