Either Dominic Thiem or Alexander Zverev will have a new introduction to his resume come Sunday evening at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. One of them will call himself a Grand Slam champion for the very first time.
And for the first time since 2014 someone named Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer won’t be taking one side of the net in the U.S. Open final. Instead, Thiem, a 27-year-old Austrian, and Zverev, a 23-year-old German, will go toe to toe for a chance to lift the trophy.
This will be Thiem’s fourth Grand Slam final. He lost to Djokovic at the Australian Open in January and has lost to Nadal twice in the French Open final. This is Zverev’s first Slam final appearance.
Thiem has a deadly backhand, a penetrating kick serve and quick feet. He made surprisingly fast work of Daniil Medvedev in a three-set semifinal on Friday.
Zverev has the whole arsenal that emanates from a huge first serve which has reached 140 mph in this tournament. He also showed great resiliency in his semifinal, coming from two sets down to beat Pablo Carreno Busta. And by the way, the last German man to win the Open was Boris Becker in 1989.
While chalk has prevailed in the tournament (Thiem was the second seed, Zverev the fifth) they both benefited greatly when Djokovic, the clear favorite, was thrown out of the Open last Sunday after hitting a ball that struck a line judge in the throat. Nadal chose not to defend his title over COVID-19 pandemic concerns. Federer is sitting out the year to rehab from knee surgery. The Big Three have won 56 of the past 67 Slam titles, including the last 13.
Thiem has won seven of his nine matches with Zverev, including a semifinal at the Australian at the start of the year.
"I'm super happy that I gave myself another chance to be in the finals, pretty quick after Australia," Thiem said. "Going to be a great one against a very good friend and a great rival."
Thiem gives Zverev super props, as does the tennis world.
"One of the greatest ones in last years," Thiem said. "Won all titles besides a major. He will also try everything what he's capable of doing to win the title. It's going to be a super difficult match."
"We played an epic in Australia," Zverev said. "The two best players in the world are going to be playing on court."