German Alexander Zverev may have suffered a gut-wrenching defeat to his rival and long-time friend Austrian Dominic Thiem in the US Open Final, but he showed unbelievable class with a ‘beautiful’ gesture right after the loss.
Zverev, 23, was up two-sets and a break in the US Open final against Thiem, 27, and had an opportunity to serve out the match against his friend and rival when nerves got the best of him.
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The emotion of the devastating loss was written across Zverev’s face in his post-match speech as he broke down in ‘heartbreaking’ fashion.
Zverev revealed his parents had tested positive for Covid-19 just before the tournament and were not able to visit and watch him in his first ever Grand Slam final.
But, despite the agonising defeat, Zverev showed how much he values his friendship with Thiem in an unbelievable moment of sportsmanship right before embracing him seconds after the loss.
Thiem collapsed to the floor with a mixture of joy and exhaustion after winning the fifth-set tie break to hand him the US Open 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6.
But Zverev, who could have been forgiven if he met Thiem at the net following the gut-wrenching loss, showed enormous class to walk over to his friend and congratulate him with their ‘special’ handshake.
Zverev then embraced Thiem as the pair trudged back towards their chairs and collapsed overwhelmed with emotion.
They still made their usual handshake. pic.twitter.com/5yJ2L3xPsI— José Morgado (@josemorgado) September 14, 2020
The German’s sportsmanship was made all the more respectable when cameras captured him devastated and in shock sitting on his chair just a few seconds later.
Fans also felt for Zverev when he broke down in his post-match speech and struggled to talk because of the disappointment.
Thiem later praised his friend: "I wish we could have two winners today. I think we both deserved it.”
Fans not only couldn’t get enough of the ‘special handshake’ but praised Zverev for putting his friendship with Thiem above his disappointment.
When you intend to choose a friend, choose someone who'd push you all the way to success and vice versa.— Latifat Adebayo Ohio (@Phatill) September 14, 2020
And after a marathon 2-6,4-6,6-4,6-3,7-6 win for Dominic Thiem, they still had time for the handshake and genuine hug. pic.twitter.com/6VvyqmPS1v
Zverev and Thiem have a special handshake pic.twitter.com/MhYk9FkFjM— Missymissycmz (@Piuchiaramente) September 14, 2020
Me seeing Thiem and Zverev do their handshake after the match pic.twitter.com/ZTlZagUmSm— Brooke Morris (@brookekmorris) September 14, 2020
ESPN just showed their after-match handshake and hug, and it was ridiculously sweet. They have their own handshake! And the way Thiem shut his eyes and tucked into Zverev's arm.— Wear a mask (@jessicawluther) September 14, 2020
Are you kidding me!!! Zverev and Thiem have their own handshake!?!?!!!! Always harder to battle a good friend or family member! All the layers in this match made it unforgettable! Golly I’ve missed live sports, so glad tennis is back, even if it’s different! #USOpen https://t.co/Iss9c4Sa6r— Kira Kleaveland (@KiraTV) September 14, 2020
Beautiful moment !— Cheik Farid (@akelefarid) September 14, 2020
Thiem creates history in US Open final
The 27-year-old Thiem entered Sunday's final with an 0-3 career record in major title matches.
This was fifth-seed Zverev’s debut in a grand slam final.
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 Austrian also made history after the astonishing come back, which was the first time at the US Open since 1949 when a men’s player had come back from two-sets down to win the US Open final.
Thiem is also the first grand slam champion other than Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer since Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka won the third of his majors at the 2016 US Open.