Dominic Thiem has become the first player in the Open Era to win the US Open title after coming back from two sets down in a dramatic roller-coaster clash against Alexander Zverev.
The second seed struggled both mentally and physically throughout his 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6) triumph where he was at one stage two points away from losing. Fighting on the court for more than four hours, Thiem was forced to recover from a lacklustre start before ousting his heartbroken Germany rival who at one stage served for the match.
“Sascha. We started to know each other in 2014 when we were both ranked 100th or something and straight away we developed a great friendship,” said the new champion.
“Then in 2016, I think, our great rivalry started again and we made great things happen on and off the court.
“It is amazing how far our journey brought us.
“I wish we could have two winners today, we both deserve it.”
Thiem’s milestone victory was far from plain sailing as he hit 43 winners against 52 unforced errors and won just 48% of his second service points. Nevertheless, he had the edge when it came to the mental battle.
Zverev, who is the youngest player to contest a US Open final in a decade, endured a turbulent route into the title showdown after coming back from a set down in three out of his six previous matches. Although it was a different story for the German against Thiem, who struggled with both nerves and his first serve at the start. Three games into the match Zverev drew first blood after a backhand slice from his opponent slammed into the net and granted him his first break. Throughout the 30-minute opener he continued to dictate play by dropping only three points behind serve and capitalized on his rival’s tentative hitting before sealing the first set with an ace down the line.
Historically in their rivalry, winning the first set hasn’t always been good news. In five out of their nine previous meetings the player who lost was the one who won the first set. However, Zverev refused to relinquish his lead with the help of some high intensity play. Best illustrated by the 103 mph forehand winner he hit en route to breaking once again during the early stages of the second frame. Although a minor wobble whilst leading 5-1 did revive Thiem’s belief as the Austrian claimed three games in a row.
Nearing the prospect of recording the biggest victory of his career, it was Zverev’s turn to experience nerves against a defiant Thiem who found a fresh burst of energy during set number three. Trading breaks early on there was little disparity between the two until the business end. Serving 4-5 down, back-to-back errors from Zverev rewarded Thiem’s perseverance as he snatched the third set.
Continuing the comeback, Thiem started to look the stronger of the two. As Zverev’s error count increased, the Austrian began to be the one dictating play with the help of some blistering shots from both his forehand and backhand side. It would be a Zverev double fault followed by an unforced error that would grant Thiem the opportunity to serve and level the match. Something he did with a love service game.
With a first major trophy, as well as a $3 million prize, at stake the match would be decided by what turned out to be one of the most gut-busting sets of the entire tournament. Incredibly Zverev failed to serve the match out whilst leading 5-3 before the same happened to Thiem when he was ahead 6-5. Then to add to the drama the world No.3 also had a medical time out between. He had hurt his Achilles prior to the final and looked to be in pain at times.
Eventually, it would be two points that would separate the two. At 6-6 in the tiebreaker a passing winner from Thiem granted him his third championship point, which he converted after a Zverev backhand went wild. Prompting the Austrian to drop onto the ground in disbelief whilst his rival was in tears moments afterwards.
“I don’t know where to start. I’d like to congratulate Dominic on the first of many Grand Slam titles. It was a tough battle – I wish you would have missed a little more,” said Zverev.
“Here I am giving a runner-up speech. Thanks to my team for sticking with me – the last two years have not been easy – hopefully one day we will lift this trophy.
“I want to thank my parents. I’m sure they are sitting at home, even though I lost they’re pretty proud. I wish one day that I can bring the trophy home.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s New York event took place behind closed doors for the first time in history. Players were kept in a ‘protective bubble’ and even restricted as to where they could travel. Although Thiem has hailed the tournament for their approach.
“To the USTA and everyone who made this event happen, you did an awesome job. I think the players felt super safe in the bubble, in the hotel, and I couldn’t believe until I got here that this would happen. At such a difficult time, you did a great job. I think we all deserve a normal US Open in 2021 with full crowds and I think this is the wish of everybody,” he said.
Thiem is just the fifth player in the Open Era to have won a Grand Slam final after losing the first two sets.
Alexander Zverev Deserves More Respect According To Boris Becker
According to Boris Becker, Alexander Zverev deserves more respect from tennis journalists.
Boris Becker has claimed that Alexander Zverev deserves more respect despite Zverev failing to live up to his potential at Grand Slams.
Zverev has only reached one Grand Slam final in his career despite being a regular inside the world’s top ten as well as performing at regular ATP events.
This season Zverev played a limited schedule after recovering from an ankle injury but still managed to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.
However most critics have been loud when judging Zverev’s career as it was looking likely that he would be a regular Grand Slam champion.
The German has failed to live up to expectations but former Grand Slam champion Boris Becker believes Zverev deserves more respect.
Speaking to Eurosport Becker also said that Zverev’s father being the coach is a more than successful approach when it comes to the former US Open finalist’s career, “In my opinion, he doesn’t get enough respect from the tennis experts internationally,” Becker explained.
“They’re all talking about the young three or four, but don’t give Zverev, Medvedev or Rublev enough respect. He’s playing with his fist in his pocket a little bit, wants everyone show that he is not a thing of the past, but that his best time is yet to come.
“Surely his father knows best what is good for his son, but if you look into the box at the competition, you can also see changes.”
Becker has followed Zverev for most of his career so knows that the best is yet to come from the German.
Alexander Zverev will look to prove himself next season when he starts his 2024 season when he represents Germany at the United Cup.
Juan Carlos Ferrero Analyses Key Areas For Carlos Alcaraz’s Development
Juan Carlos Ferrero has outlined the next steps in Carlos Alcaraz’s development.
Carlos Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero has analysed the key areas for the Spaniard’s development heading into the 2024 season.
The former world number one’s season has come to an end after a successful year which saw him win the Wimbledon title as well as winning two Masters 1000 titles.
Alcaraz capped off an incredible season by reaching the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
However there is a long way for the Spaniard to go if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with Novak Djokovic.
Speaking to Marca Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero spoke about the Spaniard’s development and said that Alcaraz is too emotional, “Be more regular in games, not open doors. Sometimes there are mistakes and it is something that we have to improve a lot,” Ferrero commented.
“Although it is true that he opens doors, he always competes well and at the highest level. He knows it, the other day he already said that Novak doesn’t give you one. He has to improve his decision making and he will achieve that with experience. Carlos is very emotional and that sometimes helps him and other times not so much.”
It’s clear Alcaraz’s high-quality is there but to consistently do it against Djokovic is another task altogether as the Spaniard looks to go from strength-to strength next season.
One area that is clearly a priority for Alcaraz is physical conditioning especially considering what happened against Djokovic at Roland Garros earlier in the season.
Ferrero said that will be a clear focus heading into 2024 but couldn’t guarantee that Alcaraz will play a tournament before the Australian Open, “Because of the year and the fatigue he has been in, what he needs is rest and disconnecting for 8-10 days with his friends,” Ferrero stated.
“From there, the thinking must go back to working really hard, strong and well to start very strongly in Australia. One can never be sure of that. Sometimes you play a tournament and it doesn’t go well, you left home too early. There are many ways of thinking.
“This year we haven’t played Australia and he finishes number two. That means there is no urgency to play a tournament early. Carlos is a player who enters competition quickly, you don’t usually see him without rhythm.
“Although it is true that he becomes more dangerous from the round of 16, from the quarter-finals. I am confident that the two exhibition matches and the training sessions will help us play a good tournament.”
Alcaraz will be looking to play the Australian Open which starts on the 15th of January after the Spaniard missed last year’s tournament due to a leg injury.
Australian Open Chief Confident Nadal Will Play But Kyrgios’ Participation Uncertain
The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is ‘certain’ that Rafael Nadal will play at the Grand Slam even though the Spaniard has yet to outline his comeback plans.
Craig Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday he hopes to receive some clarity over Nadal’s intentions in the next couple of weeks but is confident he will play. However, the tennis official had previously claimed in October that the former world No.1 had already committed to play in the event before his team denied that statement.
Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that retirement next year is a possibility.
“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” the Reuters News Agency quoted Tiley as saying.
“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.
“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”
Earlier this month Nadal confirmed that he intends to return to the Tour but admits that he will continue to experience a degree of pain. Although he has yet to give any information about which tournament he will begin his comeback at. The 2024 season begins during the first week of January.
“I’m well, training, and happy. I’m at a good stage of my life,” atptour.com quoted Nadal as telling reporters in Barcelona.
“Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.’
Will Kyrgios play?
Another player Tiley is eager to welcome back is home player and former Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios who has only played one Tour-level match this season due to injury. He underwent knee surgery in January and then tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer. As a result, the Australian currently doesn’t have an ATP ranking due to his inactivity.
“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of Kyrgios.
“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …”
Kyrgios recently worked as an analyst for the Tennis Channel during this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and gave a brief update on his ongoing recovery during a segment.
“After last year, I had such a great year, and I’m so hungry to get back out there,” the 2022 Wimbledon finalist commented.
“So I’m doing everything I can to get back out there. Obviously, you know how injuries are every day, just doing the rehab, doing the gym work.”
The Australian Open will begin on Sunday 14th January. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka are the defending champions.
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