Dominic Thiem defeated Alexander Zverev 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6) in four hours and two minutes inside a near-empty Arthur Ashe Stadium to win the 2020 US Open men’s singles title on Sunday.
It marked the first time in the US Open’s Open era history that a player had recovered from losing the opening two sets to win the title. It was also the first time the final had been settled by a tie-break.
The title marks Thiem’s first Grand Slam trophy after three previous defeats in finals of tennis majors.
Thiem was runner-up at the Australian Open earlier this year and also lost in the last-two showdowns at the French Open in 2018 and 2019.
He also becomes the first new Grand Slam champion since Croatian Marin Cilic won at Flushing Meadows in 2014.
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.
Watch the videos of Thiem’s post-match speech and press conference below:
Here’s a transcript of his post-match interview (courtesy: US Open):
Q. You are the first Austrian to win a major since Thomas Muster in Roland Garros 1995. You are an excellent player on clay. Did you think you would win your first major in New York? How much did you improve with Nicolas Massu as your coach?
Thiem: Well, when I first realized that maybe one day I could really win a major was when I first broke into the semis of Roland Garros, when I broke into top 10. From that moment on I dreamed about it. I thought that it’s maybe realistic.
Back then I thought my biggest chances by far are on clay. But then the end of last year somehow changed a lot of things when I won Beijing, when I won Vienna, when I played the great Nitto ATP Finals. Then I realized that my game is suiting the hard courts really well.
Of course, since I’m working with Nico, we improved my game on hard court a lot. Also changed my mind that many shots are working great on that surface. So I think my best major until now US Open, I played in Australia. Now it’s not for me that big surprise any more that it’s not the French.
At the end it doesn’t matter to me. Main thing is that I have one of these four now.
Q. During this tournament there’s been a lot of racquet tapping at the net after a match. You were so emotional that you did something different. Can you describe that moment? The social distancing thing, but what was going through your mind with you guys hugging?
Thiem: Well, I mean, we are really good friends. We have a long-term friendship, long-term rivalry. I think that we were both tested negative maybe 14 times, something like that, this week. Well, we just wanted to share this moment.
I guess we didn’t put anybody in danger, so I think it was fine.
Q. Really culminates a lifetime of work. Try and put into one word, one phrase, what winning your first Grand Slam means, what would that be?
Thiem: Yeah, definitely I achieved a life goal, a dream of myself, which I had for many, many years. Of course, as a kid, as well, when I started to play tennis. But back then it’s so far away.
Then I got closer and closer to the top. At one point I realized that, Wow, maybe one day I can really win one of the four biggest titles in tennis.
I put a lot of work in. I mean, I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one of the four majors. Now I did it. That’s also for myself a great accomplishment.
I mean, it’s by far not only myself, it’s an accomplishment from all my team, from all my family. I guess also today is the day where I gave back huge amount of what they did for me.
Q. In what ways do you think the experience of having played in previous major finals helped you today?
Thiem: Honestly, I think it didn’t help me at all because I was so tight in the beginning. Maybe it was not even good that I played in previous major finals. I mean, I wanted this title so much, and of course there was also in my head that if I lose this one, it’s 0-4. It’s always in your head. Is this chance ever coming back again? This, that, all these thoughts, which are not great to play your best tennis, to play free.
That’s what exactly happened in the beginning. Luckily then things changed in the third set. At the end was complete open match, 50/50. I think the experience didn’t mean that much today.
Q. Even if you started so badly, it was a script by Agatha Christie directed by Alfred Hitchcock with Sascha Zverev serving at 70 miles per hour, 112 kilometers. How do you explain two players of your caliber were so overwhelmed by the nerves? What were you thinking when he was up 5-3 and serving for the match?
Thiem: For him it was his first major finals. For him was the same like for me. We both didn’t face one of the big three, so I guess that was in the back of the head for both of us. That’s why we were on nerves. Was a very good chance for the both of us.
I think it’s obvious that I was very tight in the beginning. In the end, of course, we are both experienced enough and we both know that in a fifth-set tiebreak anyone can win. I think it’s very understandable that we both didn’t play our highest tennis anymore.
When he served for the match, I was struggling physically, but I also thought that he is not the freshest anymore. I was just hoping to maybe get another chance, that he’s not serving that huge anymore like he did in the beginning of the match.
I played a great game there and brought myself back into the match.
Q. I know it’s hard for you to look ahead at this moment with what just happened, but a week from now you’re going back to Roland Garros as the two-time defending runner-up, both times to Rafa. How difficult a transition will that be for you? Does Rafa have a decided advantage because he opted not to come to the United States?
Thiem: Well, I think physically I’m going to be fine, 100%. I’m going to have enough time to recover from all the troubles I had.
But the question is how I’m going to do it with the emotions mentally. Obviously, I’ve never been in this situation. I achieved a big, big goal. Well, I don’t know how I’m going to feel the next days.
At the same time it’s going to be or I expect that it’s going to be easier for me now in the biggest tournaments because, of course, I had it in the back of my head that I had a great career so far, way better career than I could ever dreamt of, but until today there was still a big part, a big goal missing.
With this goal achieved, I think and I hope that I’m going to be a little bit more relaxed and play a little bit more freely at the biggest events.
Q. At any moment during this match did you think to yourself you couldn’t come back? You were down two sets and a break, down in the fifth. Was there a moment when you thought that this is not going to happen? If there wasn’t a moment like that, what allowed you to maintain the belief you could come all the way back?
Thiem: It was tough to stay there and to still believe. But I did, yeah. It’s a slam finals. I said myself, I mean, I’m playing bad, I’m way too tight, legs are heavy, arms are heavy.
But I always had hope and the expectation that at one point I free up. Luckily it was not too late when I broke him back in the third set. The belief was always there. From that moment when I broke him back for I think it was 3-All in the third set, the belief got stronger and stronger.
But the thing is that the belief in myself is not enough because Sascha, I’m sure he believed himself as well 100%. Two guys like that played a match against each other. That’s obviously how it finished, in a fifth-set tiebreak.
Q. You went into this match as a favorite. There were lots of things that could have happened where if you had won easily, people would write this off. How special does it make it that this was such a fantastic, historic kind of match?
Thiem: Well, I mean, the media put me as a favorite in that match. That was not how I went in. I know what Sascha is capable of. I always remembered also the tough match we had in Australia, which was completely open, which was on the edge the whole match.
I went into it expecting a tough match, expecting an open match. Well, in the first two sets and a break down, it was one way for him, but as I said, never stopped believing, never stopped believing that I’m going to free up and start playing better at one point.
Well, it doesn’t matter at the end who did I beat or which tournament it is. I mean, I just won a major and it’s just amazing.
Q. We saw you obviously struggling physically in the fifth set. How did you manage to get through it? Were you concerned your body wouldn’t allow you to win this match?
Thiem: I started little bit cramping at the end of the fifth. It was the first time since years and years that I was cramping. But I guess it was not physical cramps; it was mentally. I was super, super tight the whole day actually and then in the beginning of the match.
Somehow the belief today was stronger than the body, and I’m super happy about that.
Q. When you fell to the court after match point, what was that feeling like? What were you thinking at that moment?
Thiem: It was such a big relief. I mean, obviously it was huge pressure in the match, huge emotions. Physically it was super tough.
Then also it was not easy four weeks in general. It was a lot coming through the mind, coming through the body.
When I made that match point, when he missed that backhand, it was such a big relief. Like Indian Wells title, for example, or like Vienna title, titles that mean so much to me, just a little bit stronger as this is a major title. It’s just the highest thing what you can achieve in tennis.
Q. How did you start the match physically? There were some rumors that you may not be 100% coming into the match. How were you physically at the beginning of the match? How did it evolve throughout the match?
Thiem: Physically I was 100% fine in the beginning of the match. I had some troubles with the Achilles in the semis, but that worked out great, I didn’t feel any pain.
The problem was my nerves. I was super, super tight. I was tighter than in a long time. Didn’t even know how that feels anymore. Didn’t even know how to get rid of that. But somehow I did it in the third set.
As I said, the emotions, they were much, much tougher to handle today than my body because it was fine.
Transcript courtesy US Open / ASAP Sports
With AFP inputs