Dominic Thiem has come from two sets down to win his first major title at the US Open.
The Austrian second seed outlasted Alexander Zverev in a five-set grind on Sunday that neither man looked like they wanted to win.
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Thiem came into the US Open final as the red-hot favourite, but the way he played in the opening stages made him look like he didn’t even deserve to be there.
Zverev took total control of the first two sets in Sunday’s final, shocking Thiem and the tennis world to lead 6-2, 6-4.
Playing in his fourth grand slam final and not having to worry about the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, many thought Thiem would blitz his German opponent.
But the Austrian was a shadow of the player who dominated Daniil Medvedev in the semi-finals.
“Thiem playing shockingly bad. Almost tough to watch,” tennis writer Jose Morgado wrote on Twitter.
British journalist George Bellshaw wrote: “Hard to believe how bad Dominic Thiem has been tonight given the level he’s shown this tournament.”
Thiem playing shockingly bad. Almost tough to watch. Sascha set and double break up— José Morgado (@josemorgado) September 13, 2020
Hard to believe how bad Dominic Thiem has been tonight given the level he's shown this tournament... Alexander Zverev up a set and a double break. 6-2 4-1.— George Bellshaw (@BellshawGeorge) September 13, 2020
But in astonishing scenes, Thiem completely righted the ship and won the match in five sets.
Battling injury and down a break in the final set, Thiem pulled off the astonishing comeback to win 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6.
It is the first time someone has won the US Open after losing the first two sets in the Open era.
A nervy Zverev served for the championship at 5-3 in the final set, but hit four unforced errors to allow Thiem back into it.
Tennis fans and commentators were in disbelief as both players attempted to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, with many describing the match as ‘tough to watch’.
“Can you believe we’re watching this right now, what they’re going through?” John McEnroe said in commentary for ESPN.
“I don’t think it would be possible to have a tougher loss the rest of (Zverev’s) career than what he just had to endure.”
You have to try really hard to choke harder than what Zverev just did at the US Open. Up 2 sets to love. Blows that. Serving for the match in the 5th. Doesn’t come close. Up a mini break in the final tiebreak where Thiem actually couldn’t move cause of cramps. Nope. #USOpen— Eric Hubbs (@BarstoolHubbs) September 14, 2020
Dominic Thiem is laughing out loud in his chair. He could barely walk at the end, looked completely out of it and yet survived. Zverev double faulted twice in the tiebreak and, frankly, bottled it.— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) September 14, 2020
Zverev broken when serving for the title. Hit 4 unforced errors.— José Morgado (@josemorgado) September 13, 2020
My god. Bring back Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer. That level was tough to watch. Neither one of them deserve a title.— MIKE (@mdamone21) September 14, 2020
That was just tough tough to watch someone loose.— Rohan Bopanna (@rohanbopanna) September 14, 2020
That was tough to watch, maybe its a good thing. Nobody showed up. Need to be alot better if they think their goin to go anywhere this year.— Tommy (@AlwaysReal516) September 14, 2020
What a match! Incredible comeback by Thiem. Great to see him finally win a Slam in his fourth final. Gotta feel for Zverev, though. Agonising. #USOpen— Ronnie (@exoplanetocean) September 14, 2020
Alexander Zverev squanders scintillating start
Second seed Thiem came into the match with a 7-2 head-to-head record against Zverev, who had to come back from two sets down for the first time in his career to overcome Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta to reach his maiden grand slam final.
Zverev made an incredible start in his bid to become Germany’s first men’s major champion since Boris Becker at the 1996 Australian Open.
The German won 16 of 19 points on his serve in the first set, which reached 222 km/h. He also broke Thiem’s serve twice.
“Thiem’s tight right now. He’s got to start taking a little off his first serve and get his percentage up,” McEnroe said on ESPN.
It was just the second set lost by the Thiem in the whole tournament.
Zverev opened a 5-1 lead in the second set before Thiem won three straight games to make it close.
“I did not see this happening so early but proves once again that Sascha without pressure is a whole different player,” journalist Zenia D’cunha tweeted.
“Who is this and what happened to the Zverev from the semi-final?”
However it wasn’t to be, with Thiem becoming the first man since Pancho Gonzalez made a similar turnaround against Ted Schroeder in 1949 to win the final from two sets down.
“We made great things happen on the court, as well off the court,” Thiem said.
“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.
“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.”