Dominic Thiem enjoyed a breakout season in 2020, as he became the first male player born in the 1990s to win a Grand Slam. Thiem bagged his first Major title by beating good friend Alexander Zverev in the US Open final, rallying from two-sets-to-love down. And the Austrian has now given a detailed account of his mindset during the nerve-racking match, claiming that he knew he was on the verge of his 'biggest defeat' and that he was praying for Zverev to miss towards the end.
Dominic Thiem, who is the only player other than Andy Murray to have five or more wins against each of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, recently appeared on a local late night show named "Sport & Talk". The Austrian talked at length about his nerves during the US Open final, and how high the stakes climbed as the match went the distance.
"At this stage, I was fully aware that only a few centimeters were going to make the difference between my biggest victory and my biggest defeat," Dominic Thiem said.
Both Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev were under immense pressure to win their first Major title, and that led to some labored tennis. Thiem revealed that he was in the both 'the negative zone and the positive zone' throughout the match.
After falling behind early on, the Austrian had to toil really hard to keep his Slam dream alive. The Austrian was able to take the third and the fourth sets with some powerful forehands that pushed Zverev back behind the baseline, but in the fifth set it was still anybody's game.
If my legs had been fresher, the forehand would have gone in: Dominic Thiem on his first missed match point
At one stage during the talk show they showed the point played at 5-4 in the final set tiebreak. Dominic Thiem then shyly quipped that he was seeing the championship match for the first time ever.
The Austrian won that point with a blazing forehand passing shot, taking the score to 6-4 in his favor. But on his first match point, Thiem smashed a sitter forehand into the net to give Zverev a new lease of life.
The 27-year-old believes fatigue had some role to play in that missed opportunity.
"I had constructed the point very well. If my legs had been fresher, the forehand would have gone in," Thiem said.
With Zverev trailing 5-6, Thiem found himself praying for the German to miss his first serve. And when he did exactly that, the Austrian started hoping for Zverev to make a double fault.
"There, I was hoping for a double fault," Thiem said with a laugh.
The host later pointed out how slow Zverev's second serve was, to which Thiem responded that his return wasn't very fast either.
Zverev would subsequently tie the score at 6-6 and serve again for a chance to get to match point himself. That forced Thiem to put everything into the next rally, which was seven shots long and ended with another forehand passing winner from the Austrian.
"I just put everything into this point, because I knew how important it was," Thiem said. "I really didn't want to have to serve to save a match point next, because I couldn't put anything in my legs anymore."
On his third match point, Thiem willed himself to make his first serve despite suffering from severe cramps. But the 27-year-old could see that Zverev himself was struggling with his legs, and he instantly knew he had to seal the match on the next point itself.
"Sascha stumbled a bit on that point which was lucky for me," Thiem said.
It was important for me to comfort Sascha after the final: Dominic Thiem
With his 2020 US Open win, not only did Dominic Thiem become the first Major champion born in the 90s, he also became the first player since 2004 to have come back from a two-set deficit in a Slam final.
Towards the end of the interview Thiem talked about the moment he clinched match point - which he claimed gave him a 'rush of joy'. However, he made sure to mute his celebrations and comfort a desolate Alexander Zverev at the net.
"It was an incredible rush of joy and I tried to enjoy it," Thiem said. "So during the handshake, it was important for me to comfort Sascha."
After their warm embrace at the net, Dominic Thiem went back to enjoying his moment. But what many might not know is that the 27-year-old never prepares speeches for trophy ceremonies.
Thiem quipped at the end of the show that he was eager to get off the court and celebrate his first Major title with his friends and family.