| By Brian Coleman
Credit Photo: Pete Staples/USTA

 

Down two-sets-to-love at the end of a two-week long tournament, it can be hard to find any sort of energy to pull yourself out of that sort of hole.

But for Austria’s Dominic Thiem, and the notion of his first Grand Slam title hanging in the balance, he managed to find a way. Thiem completed the historic comeback over friend and rival Alex Zverev to claim the U.S. Open trophy with a 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6) victory.

“We started to know each other back in 2014 and straight away started to develop a great friendship…and then a great rivalry,” Thiem said of his finals opponent. “We’ve made great things happen on the court and off the court. It’s amazing how far our journey brought us to share this moment. I wish we could have two winners today. We both deserved it.”

Two of the players who have been anointed as the future of the sport each had a chance to grab their first major title, helped by the absence of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and the defaulting of Novak Djokovic earlier in the tournament. Regardless, the two had a chance to claim their spot in history, and it was Zverev who struck first by jumping out to a two-sets-to-love lead.

“When he served for the match, I was struggling physically, but I also thought that he is not the freshest anymore,” said Thiem. “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.”

After Thiem came back to win the third and fourth sets, Zverev broke for a 5-3 lead in the fifth set and had his chance to serve for the championship. He was unable to, but the German then had break points as Thiem was serving at 6-5.

The match was destined to head to a deciding fifth-set tiebreaker, and by the time they reached it, both players looked worn down physically.

On his third match point, Thiem watched as a Zverev backhand sailed wide, and the Austrian dropped to the ground after completing his comeback in a match that lasted just over four hours.

“I achieved a life goal,” said Thiem. “I put a lot of work in. I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win of the four majors. Now I did it. That’s also, for myself, a great accomplishment. It’s not only myself, it’s an accomplishment for all of my team, for all my family.”

One man’s jubilation is another’s heartbreak in a match like this. It was a tough defeat for Zverev, who had come back from two-sets-to-love down in his semifinal match, but the German was pleased with his fortnight in New York City.

”I want to congratulate Dominic on the first of many Grand Slam titles. I wish you could have missed a little more so I could be holding that trophy up, but here I am giving the runner-up speech,” Zverev said. “I want to thank my team for sticking with me. The past two years haven’t been easy in my tennis career. We’re definitely on the way up and I hope that one day we’re going to lift that trophy up together.”


Osaka Comes Back for Second U.S. Open TitleCredit Photo: Simon Bruty/USTA

Naomi Osaka made headlines before the U.S. Open even started, and continued to do so throughout her three-week stay in the New York bubble. That culminated with a comeback victory over an in-form Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open Women’s Singles final, fighting back to claim her second U.S. Open trophy 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.

“I was thinking about all the times I’ve watched the great players sort of collapse onto the ground and look up into the sky,” said Osaka, referring to her laying on the court after her victory. “I’ve always wanted to see what they say. For me, it was really an incredible moment. I’m really glad I did it.”

It was a shaky start for the 22-year-old star as she committed 13 unforced errors and was broken three times in the opening set.

“I think in the first set I was so nervous,” Osaka admitted. “I wasn’t moving my feet. I felt like I was not playing, not that I expect myself to play 100 percent, but it would be nice if I could even play like 70 percent. I just felt like I was too much in my own head.”

Azarenka broke again in the beginning of the second set and was on the brink of a 3-0 lead. But Osaka continued to fight, and got the break back, and would go on to win 12 of the 16 games to win the match, ending things with a break of Azarenka serve.

“I think it’s definitely been a great three weeks of tennis,” said Azarenka. “I haven’t had such results in quite a long time, so I’m very excited for it. Today, it’s a loss, but it doesn’t change for me much. Of course, I would have loved to win today. It is what it is…It was a lot of fun for me to play and to be in the final of the U.S. Open. I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”

Osaka is now owner of three major titles, and may be the new face of women’s tennis.

“I would definitely say it's been an important few months. For me, my life was always go, go tennis-wise, especially after the previous US Open that I won. It definitely accelerated things, and I've never had a chance to slow down,” she said. “The quarantine definitely gave me a chance to think a lot about things, what I want to accomplish, what I want people to remember me by. For me, I came into this tournament, or these two tournaments, with that mindset. I think it definitely helped me out.”


Siegemund, Zvonareva Win Women’s Doubles Title in First TourneyCredit Photo: Mike Lawrence/USTA

Competing together in their first tournament, Germany’s Laura Siegemund and Russia’s Vera Zvonareva captured the U.S. Open Women’s Doubles title, defeating the American-Chinese duo of Nicole Melichar and Xu Yifan 6-4, 6-4.

“I think these moments like today, memories of these moments, they kind of keep you going,” said Zvonareva. “It’s special. It’s something that you worked so hard for. Then, you’re about to life that trophy. I think this is one of the biggest reasons to continue playing.”

Despite never playing together prior to coming to New York, the duo quickly developed a chemistry on court which resulted in a great run of doubles play throughout their week at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“It’s not a random choice that we play with each other because we both feel like we can complement each other’s game,” said Siegemund. “Then something that turns out during the tourney through the two weeks is that you really, in our case, I really realized her game style is complementing me.”


Pavic, Soares Win First Major TogetherCredit Photo: Darren Carroll/USTA

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares defeated Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic 7-5, 6-3 to win the U.S. Open Men’s Doubles title, their first major title together.

“It means a lot. That’s what we practice for,” said Soares. “That’s what we were trying to do in these five months off, working for this moment. Extremely happy. Tough year for everyone. Really glad the work that everyone put into this event to give us the opportunity to get back on the court. To start with a Grand Slam title, I think it’s a very positive way to come back for us.”

En route to the title, Pavic and Soares defeated four different U.S. Open champions to claim the $480,000 purse.

“We got through tough moments throughout the week,” said Pavic. “Like Bruno said, very happy to be here lifting the title; [it was a] great tournament. Congrats to the guys for the final.”


Kunieda Claims Seventh U.S. Open TitleCredit Photos: Pete Staples/USTA

Top-seed Shingo Kunieda won his seventh U.S. Open title and 24th major overall as he defeated Alfie Hewitt 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3) in the Men’s Wheelchair Singles final. Hewitt would get his title though, winning the doubles event with Gordon Reid after beating Nicolas Peifer and Stephane Houdet 6-4, 6-1.

Netherlands’ Sam Schroder captured his first career Grand Slam title in an exciting upset over top-seed Dylan Alcott of Australia 7-6, 0-6, 6-4 to win the U.S. Open Men’s Quad Final.

“I want to thank the USTA for granting me a wild card for my first-ever Grand Slam,” said Schroder, who now has three titles in 2020. “It’s been an amazing experience for me.”

The day before, Alcott paired with Andy Lapthorne to beat Schroder and David Wagner 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 in the Quad Doubles final.

In the Women’s Singles Wheelchair final, top-ranked Diede De Groot defeated second-seed Yui Kamiji 6-3, 6-3, but Kamiji would get some revenge as she paired with Jordanne Wiley to defeat De Groot and Marjolein Buis in the doubles final.

Brian Coleman

 Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at brianc@usptennis.com