Thiem clinches maiden US Open title

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NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13: Dominic Thiem of Austria celebrates with championship trophy after winning in a tie-breaker during his Men's Singles final match against Alexander Zverev of Germany on Day Fourteen of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 13, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York City. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images/AFP

AP

New York

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 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 pulled out a 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory at Flushing Meadows for his first Grand Slam title.

The match ended with both men fighting leg cramps and, clearly, nerves.

“Somehow,” said Thiem, a 27-year-old from Austria, “the belief today was stronger than the body, and I’m super happy about that.”

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, 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 we both deserved it.”

He 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 US championships and held in Forest
Hills.

The event never had been settled by a fifth-set tiebreaker; no major tournament ever had until Novak Djokovic edged Roger Federer that way at Wimbledon in 2019.

“I was a few games away, a few points away,” said Zverev, who was trying to give Germany its first male Grand Slam champion since Boris Becker in the 1990s. “I’m 23 years old. I don’t think
it’s my last chance.” Zverev choked up when he mentioned that his parents hadn’t been able to travel to New York because they tested positive for COVID-19, although he said they are
now healthy.

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.