Dominic Thiem says he dedicated his whole life to winning a grand slam title and with his victory at the US Open the Austrian expects more of the sport’s biggest prizes to come his way.
Thiem had lost his three previous grand slam finals – two to Rafa Nadal at the French Open and once to Novak Djokovic in Australia – and looked as if he had squandered another chance when Alexander Zverev won the first two sets in New York.
But the Austrian staged a stunning comeback to win 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(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 Nadal, 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 dreamt 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 in New York 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. Today is the day where I gave back huge amount of what they did for me.”
For Zverev, it was too soon to look for the positives in his US Open campaign as the devastated German struggled to come to terms with his five-set defeat.
The 23-year-old looked set for victory in his first grand slam final appearance until second seed Thiem fought back to take the title as an exhausted Zverev struggled through a thigh cramp that neutralised his powerful serve.
“I was super close to being a grand slam champion. I was a few games away, maybe a few points away,” Zverev said. “I don’t think it’s my last chance. I do believe that I will be a grand slam champion at some point.”
The fifth seed said the turning point in the four-hour thriller came when Thiem broke his serve for the first time in the third set, a break which reversed the momentum of the match.
“He started playing much better and I started playing much worse,” said Zverev, who also lost to Thiem in the Australian Open semi-final earlier this year.
Asked if he could point to any positives from his time at Flushing Meadows, he was blunt: “That question is probably two, three days too early to ask right now.”
During the on-court trophy presentation Zverev tearfully thanked his parents, whom he said had both contracted the coronavirus.
“Unfortunately my dad and my mother got tested positive before the tournament and they couldn’t have gone with me. I miss them,” he said, pausing to compose himself.
“I’m sure they’re sitting at home, even though I lost they’re pretty proud.”
He later told reporters he was so lost in the moment that he could not recall what he had said.
“Losing 7-6 in the fifth after being two sets to love and a break up is not easy,” he said. “At the speech, I mean, I got emotional. I couldn’t put two words together. Yeah, it was a difficult moment for me.”