Fifth seed Alexander Zverev got off to a perfect start on Sunday in the US Open final, but second seed Dominic Thiem won’t go away quietly. Zverev leads Thiem 6-2, 6-4, 4-6 as both men pursue their first Grand Slam title.
Thiem aims to become the first player in the Open Era to rally from two sets down in a US Open final. In 25 of the past 27 years, the player who took the opening set has gone on to lift the title in New York. The winner of this match will become the 55th Grand Slam champion of the Open Era and the 150th of all time.
Zverev, 23, looks to become the youngest Grand Slam winner since Juan Martin del Potro (20) at the 2009 US Open. A win would also make him the first German winner of a major championship since Boris Becker at the 1996 Australian Open. He seeks his first title in 15 months (2019 Geneva) and only his second since winning the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals.
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Thiem saved a break point in the opening game with a big inside-out forehand, but a nervy service game at 1-1 saw him hand a break to Zverev with a double fault and pair of baseline errors. He only landed 37 per cent of first serves throughout the opening set and gave Zverev numerous opportunities to get on top of rallies. Thiem won just 29 per cent (5/17) of his second-serve points.
Zverev avoided the slow starts he had in his past two matches, cracking his groundstrokes with authority and racking up 16 winners to just six unforced errors. The ball toss issues he had at times throughout the tournament were also non-existent. Zverev landed 68 per cent of his first serves and won all but one point behind that delivery (12/13). The fifth seed scored an insurance break at 4-2 and required just 45 seconds to serve out the opening set.
Thiem’s struggles continued in the second set. Zverev rifled a down-the-line forehand winner at 1-1 to set up break point and converted when Thiem sent a routine forehand long. He hadn’t dropped serve more than twice in a match en route to the final, but was broken in three of his first five service games.
The German also took advantage of his opponent standing well behind the baseline to return by serving-and-volleying on several occasions. Even when Thiem put the return in play, Zverev only needed to hit a solid mid-court volley to end the point.
Zverev scored an insurance break at 3-1 as Thiem hit another forehand long. But the significance of the moment became too much as the 23-year-old attempted to close out the set. Thiem bravely saved three set points at 1-5 to hold serve, then Zverev failed to convert a fourth set point when he sent an easy forehand volley wide. The missed opportunity enabled Thiem to eventually score his first break of the match.
Although Thiem’s confidence grew and he began to find his top form, Zverev served out the set on his second attempt, striking a down-the-line backhand on his fifth set point. He significantly outnumbered Thiem in winners after the first two sets (24 to 12) while also hitting fewer unforced errors (20 to 21).
Zverev appeared to be in a commanding position as he broke Thiem for a 2-1 lead in the third set, but nerves crept in once again as he dropped serve in the next game. As Thiem continued to boost his first-serve percentage, from 37 percent in the first set to 74 percent in the third set, he generally held serve with greater ease.
That applied more pressure to Zverev’s service games. The fifth seed won 64 per cent of first-serve points in the third set, down from 88 per cent in the first set. With Zverev serving at 4-5, he struck a double fault and missed two routine groundstrokes to allow Thiem to close the gap.