In a wild comeback that seemed improbable and predictable, lost and then found, Dominic Thiem battled from two sets down to win the United States Open on Sunday night over Alexander Zverev, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6).
Thiem edged Zverev in a fifth-set tiebreaker that capped a four-hour marathon that included golden opportunities for Zverev to win and left both men battling cramps in the final moments.
Thiem, a 27-year-old Austrian, won his first Grand Slam tournament in his fourth major final. A critical factor was that this time neither Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal nor Novak Djokovic stood on the other side of the net.
Thiem, one of a group of promising younger players who have long failed to topple those aging giants, became the first currently active player in his 20s to win a Grand Slam event. He is the first new Grand Slam champion in six years.
With Zverev serving for the match at 5-3 in the fifth set, Thiem won the first two points to put the big German on the ropes, then forced him into one too many errors as Zverev could not close the door for the championship.
Although this tournament may always be known for the absence of Federer and Nadal and Djokovic’s disqualification for unintentionally hitting a line judge with a ball, Thiem’s name will be etched in the same font as past champions. There was no discount on his $3 million winner’s check.
If others see this title as diminished in some way, Thiem is not among them. “I achieved a life goal and a dream I had for many many years,” he said.
The game’s ultimate pressure cooker, a fifth set tiebreaker, was a microcosm of the match itself. Zverev took an early lead, Thiem battled back to take control, then Zverev fought off two match points to knot it at 6-6. But Thiem slammed one last searing forehand winner and Zverev sent one last backhand wide to give Thiem the championship.