Dominic Thiem completed an historic double on Sunday, becoming the first man to win the US Open from two sets to love down and the first to take victory in an unprecedented fifth-set tiebreaker.
The Austrian second seed struggled with cramping in the final set to defeat Alexander Zverev 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6).
Thiem had to overcome his right thigh cramps to ease to victory after losing his first three Grand Slam finals, most recently in January to Novak Djokovic in Melbourne. He also lost the last two French Open finals to Rafael Nadal.
The second seed came from two breaks down in the fifth set and took it into a decider, the first in history for an Open fifth set.
Thiem fought through his pain to earn a pair of match points in the decider on a passing shot but was unable to convert.
He got another chance seconds later and fell to the court on his back as Zverev returned wide after almost four hours.
Both winner and finalist were emotional afterwards:
“We started to know each other in 2014, we developed a friendship and our rivalry began in 2016,” Thiem said. “And in 2016 our rivalry started.
“It’s amazing how far our journey has brought us. I wish we could have two winners today, we both deserved it.
“I couldn’t believe that this (quarantined) event was gonna happen (amid the COVID-19 pandemic). We all wish for full grounds (fans) for 2021.”
Zverev broke down during the trophy ceremony when he addressed his family in Europe after congratulating Thiem..
“It was a tough battle, I wish you had missed a little bit more… but here I am giving the runner-up speech.
“Who would have thought this event would be possible with the whole situation going on. We’re all happy this happened.”
The last comeback from two sets down in a Slam final occurred at 2004 Roland Garros when Gaston Gaudio beat Guillermo Coria.
.In 1949, two decades before the Open tennis era, Pancho Gonzalez came all the way back to win the then-US Championships.
Thiem is the first man since Marin Cilic in 2014 to win his first Grand Slam title here; he becomes the 55th Grand Slam champion of the Open era and 150th of all time.
Zverev’s loss leaves Boris Becker (1996 Australian Open) as the last German winner at a major.
Thiem looked to be down and out after losing the first two sets before turning the tables in the third set and ending in the most dramatic fashion.
Both he and Zverev withdrew from this week’s Rome Masters, rescheduled form May due to the virus, they are both due to play at the french Open from September 27.