US Open

This time, Thiem delivers

Austrian ace achieves 'life goal' in first Grand Slam win after three near misses

Dominic Thiem of Austria celebrates with the US Open winner's trophy after beating Germany's Alexander Zverev in the men's singles final. He is the first player outside of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to win a Grand Slam in four yea
Dominic Thiem of Austria celebrates with the US Open winner's trophy after beating Germany's Alexander Zverev in the men's singles final. He is the first player outside of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to win a Grand Slam in four years.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Dominic Thiem says he dedicated his whole life to winning a Grand Slam title and with his victory at the US Open on Sunday, he expects more of the sport's biggest prizes to come his way.

The Austrian had lost his three previous Major finals and looked as if he had squandered another chance when Alexander Zverev won the first two sets in New York.

But he staged a stunning comeback to win 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) in a nerve-jangling battle of wills and will now head to the French Open with renewed confidence.

"I expect it's going to be easier for me now in the biggest tournaments," said Thiem, who became the first player outside Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to claim a Grand Slam title since Stan Wawrinka's 2016 US Open triumph.

"I had it in the back of my head that I had a great career so far, way better than I could ever dream of, but until today there was still a big goal missing.

"With this achieved, I hope that I'm going to be a little bit more relaxed and play a little bit more freely at the biggest events."

Thiem said his triumph - the first time in the tournament's Open Era history that a player had recovered from losing the opening two sets to win the title - was a culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice.

"Definitely achieved a life goal, a dream, which I had for many, many years. Back then it was so far away. Then I got closer to the top and realised that maybe one day I could really win one of the four biggest titles," he added.

"I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one. Now I did it. That's for myself, my team and family, a great accomplishment."

Thiem came into the US Open final having lost in five sets to Djokovic in the final of the Australian Open earlier this year.

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  • Grand Slam finals Dominic Thiem played before winning his first Major.

He also lost in the final of the French Open in 2018 and 2019, both times to Nadal.

Thiem said the near misses were a chain around his neck during Sunday's showdown on Arthur Ashe as he was overcome with nerves in the first two sets.

"Honestly, I think it didn't help me at all because I was so tight in the beginning," he said. "I mean, I wanted this title so much, and of course it 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? All these thoughts, which are not great to play your best tennis, to play free."

The 27-year-old starts his bid for his second Slam next week at the French Open where he will seek revenge for those two defeats by Nadal. He believes that he would be fit for Roland Garros after the realisation he is a Grand Slam champion sinks in.

"Physically I'm going to be fine, 100 per cent. I'm going to have enough time to recover from all the troubles I had," he said.

"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. I don't know how I'm going to feel the next days."

Zverev pledged to bounce back from his bitterly disappointing loss and capture a Grand Slam one day.

"For me what upset me the most is not the third set, it's the fifth set," the German said. "I had a lot of chances in the fifth set and didn't use them. Obviously being two sets to love and a break up in a Grand Slam final then losing is not easy."

He added that the rawness of the defeat meant it was too soon to say whether he had taken any positives. "That question is probably two, three days too early to ask right now," he said. "I'm 23 years old. I don't think it's my last chance. I do believe that I will be a Grand Slam champion at some point."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2020, with the headline 'This time, Thiem delivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe