Anyone who followed Sunday's US Open final between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev through online scores, would have likely thought the match was a classic. The Austrian came back from two sets down to take the final to a fifth set, and then recovered from 3-5 down in the decider before winning the match in a fifth set tie-break.
But those who did watch the match had plenty to say about the quality of play in the final. And now, former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli has also given her thoughts on the erratic play of both men.
Dominic Thiem himself had earlier spoken about how his nerves affected his performance in the final. "The problem was my nerves. I was super, super tight. I was tighter than in a long time. Didn't even know how that feels anymore. Didn't even know how to get rid of that. But somehow I did it in the third set," he said.
But when you consider the background around the match and the tournament, it's not hard to understand the nervousness of Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev. They were both aiming to win their first Grand Slam singles title in a field where Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were not entered and Novak Djokovic was defaulted in the fourth round.
Moreover, they are both very good friends off the court. And let's not forget the whole pandemic and the new normal in tennis - no fans, limited entourages, and the US Open bubble to deal with (Zverev's parents, in fact, had tested positive for COVID-19 prior the tournament).
While it may be hard for casual fans to understand the nerves that come with playing for a Grand Slam title, Marion Bartoli surely knows the feeling. The Frenchwoman reached two Grand Slam singles finals in her career - losing the Wimbledon final in 2007 to Venus Williams, and winning the Wimbledon final in 2013.
You could tell how stressed both players were: Marion Bartoli on Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev
Speaking on the Match Points show, Bartoli said she could very well relate to the nerves that both Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev were experiencing.
"You could tell how stressed both players were," she said. "I saw a lot of matches from both of them, I never saw Dominic Thiem being in that kind of stress, especially the first two sets. He could barely swing the ball. I knew exactly that feeling. You want to do it, your brain wants to do it, but your body just doesn't respond. That is entirely due to the pressure of that match and the magnitude of it."
The 35-year-old Frenchwoman also said that the friendship between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev may have been another reason for their subpar level of play.
"Sometimes if you play against someone you don't get along very well with it is easier to find an inner fire. Because they are such close friends...I think it makes it even tougher to find a way to swing that ball," Bartoli said.
The match did lack the kind of breathtaking tennis that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have spoiled fans with over the past many years, However, Bartoli believes the Dominic Thiem was still fully deserving of the title, given the mental effort he put in to keep fighting while not playing even close to his best.
"For me, the mental effort both of them put in during that match was quite extraordinary. When you play so badly, especially for Dominic Thiem at the beginning of the match, to still find an inner strength, to keep fighting, to keep grinding, to keep finding ways to get back into that match, it is as respectable as playing well and winning a Grand Slam," Bartoli added.