Almost all the predictions promised him victory. But not like this, not at the end of a non-match, of an improbable game where the fear of losing was fun to jump on one of the fighters then on the other, to the point of grotesque or almost. Dominic Thiem had an appointment with history Sunday, September 13 in the final of the US Open. He honored him, but arriving very late on the court, and after four hours of a meeting far from being up to the challenge.
A historic first
At 27, the Austrian is indeed the first player of the generation born in the 1990s to finally touch the Grail of Grand Slam success. The first to win the kick out of the ogres of the “Big 3” – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – since 2016. The first to register a new name on the list of a major tournament on the circuit since the Croatian Marin Cilic in the US Open in 2014. Certainly, circumstances prevent us from really talking about passing the baton: Roger Federer was absent after his knee operation, Rafael Nadal had preferred to ignore a context turned upside down by the coronavirus and Novak Djokovic s’ is excluded on his own from the event by a gesture of temper which disqualified him in the round of 16. But the result is there.
Not the way. History can also remember that Dominic Thiem is the first since 1949 to lift the trophy after being led two sets to nothing. Because for more than an hour and a half, it was Alexander Zverev, his opponent of the day, who reigned supreme in this duel. A shame. The German had arrived at this stage of the competition by distinguishing himself with matches that started badly, an always delicate start that put him in danger in the quarter as well as in the semi-finals. Except that this time, the world N ° 7 landed by conquering, tightening his game by relying on a reinforced concrete service. A domination materialized by two first sets dispatched, 6-2, 6-4, but without great opposition, Dominic Thiem proving to be exceeded, behind on almost all the balls, unable to let go of his blows.
Part undermined by the fear of losing
And then suddenly the matter turned to be quite different. Finished the gamberge for the Austrian, the fear of still missing his chance after his three finals already lost, at Roland Garros against Nadal in 2018 and 2019, in Australia in early 2020 against Djokovic. “I knew that if I lost, I would be 0-4 in the final, and I couldn’t get it out of my head”, he was to explain after the meeting. The switch was made in his noggin, and on the other side of the court in that of his rival, losing in turn his means and his fine certainties. Alexander Zverev or the master of inconstancy.
The 23-year-old is a gifted player, as we know from his career of excellence in junior at the dawn of the 2010s. Since 2016 and his sensational entry into the professional world, the German is struggling to make his talent speak, especially in Grand Slam. This US Open could be a game-changer. But no. After his start without cloud, Alexander Zverev began to multiply unforced errors and double faults (15 in total). Once the situation is reversed, with two sets everywhere, he is yet still two points from the match on several occasions. Too late, no doubt.
Everything was played in the tie-break in an erratic fifth round with an extremely thin level of play, coming down to who will crack the first. It was a paralyzed Alexander Zverev, with no more power in the service, who finally let a Dominic Thiem at the end of the roll physically pick up the victory. The advent of the Austrian has long been heralded. But to follow in the wake of the giants of the “Big 3”, there is still some way to go.