Dominic Thiem has become the first man in 71 years to win the US Open after dropping the first two sets of the final.
Thiem earned his first grand slam title on Sunday (US time) with a 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6 (8-6) comeback victory against Alexander Zverev.
It is the first time the US Open has been decided by a fifth-set tiebreaker.
Speaking after the historic win, Thiem said he had dedicated his whole life to winning a grand slam title and with his victory at the US Open on Sunday the Austrian expects more of the sport’s biggest prizes to come his way.
“I expect it’s going to be easier for me now in the biggest tournaments,” said Thiem, who became the first player outside Nadal, Djokovic and Roger Federer to claim a grand slam title since Stan Wawrinka’s 2016 US Open triumph.
“I had it in the back of my head that I had a great career so far, way better than I could ever dreamt of, but until today there was still a big goal missing.
Pancho Gonzalez made a similar turnaround against Ted Schroeder in 1949 to win the event, then known as the US Championships.
The 27-year-old Thiem entered Sunday’s final with a 0-3 career record in major title matches.
Thiem, the No.2 seed and world No.3, became the first Austrian to claim a singles title at Flushing Meadows, albeit in unique circumstances as no fans were present at the hardcourt major due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The champion, who is great friends with the German, paid tribute to his opponent.
“We made great things happen on the court, as well off the court. It’s amazing how far our journey brought us to share this moment. Really I wish we could have two winners. We both deserve it,” he said.
“I remember you told me, ‘You’re going to make it’. I’ll tell you the same thing. You’re going to make it and you’ll definitely bring it home one day.
“Definitely achieved a life goal, a dream, which I had for many, many years. Back then it was so far away. Then I got closer to the top and realised that maybe one day I could really win one of the four biggest titles.
“I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one. Now I did it. That’s for myself, my team and family, a great accomplishment. Today is the day where I gave back huge amount of what they did for me,” he added.
Zverev’s parents not in crowd after testing positive to COVID-19
This was fifth-seed Zverev’s debut in a grand slam final and he broke down in tears during the post-match ceremony, while talking about his parents, who are also his coaches.
“I was super close to being a grand slam champion. I was a few games away, maybe a few points away,” said Zverev, who was contesting his first career major final.
“For me what upset me the most is not the third set or something like that, it’s the fifth set. I had a lot of chances in the fifth set and didn’t use them.
“I’m 23 years old. I don’t think it’s my last chance. I do believe that I will be a grand slam champion at some point.”
Zverev had a perfect start to the match, serving huge and dictating play. But his serve speed decreased dramatically towards the end of the final and he revealed there were physical issues behind his slow serving in the tiebreak.
“I was cramping in the tiebreaker really. My left quad was cramping, I couldn’t push off anymore. I couldn’t actually hit the first serve anymore,” explained the fifth seed, who was looking to become the first German man to win a major since Boris Becker in 1996.
“There’s some special people missing from the crowd today. I want to thank my parents. They’re always with me. Unfortunately my mum and dad tested positive for COVID before the tournament and they couldn’t be with me,” said Zverev.
“I miss them. Man this is tough. I’m sure even though I lost they’re pretty proud and I wish one day I can bring this trophy home.”