World No. 3 Dominic Thiem defeated his good friend Alexander Zverev in a five-set thriller to win his maiden Grand Slam title on Sunday at the 2020 US Open. Already in his fourth career Major final, Thiem had shown enough signs over the fortnight to suggest that he was ready to make the big step up.
Down two-sets-to-love, the Austrian had to will himself to make a comeback in the US Open final. That kind of resilience has often been seen in the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer & Novak Djokovic; the trio have made several staggering comebacks from the jaws of defeat by playing their best when it mattered the most.
Perhaps it is this quality of Dominic Thiem's that has seen him being compared to the 'Big 3'. But seven-time Major winner Mats Wilander downplayed any such comparisons when he spoke to L'equipe, stating that the two finalists at Flushing Meadows were not deserving of being on the same table as Nadal and Djokovic yet.
Dominic Thiem & Alexander Zverev realized how nervous the other was: Wilander on the 2020 US Open final
A few days earlier, the former World No. 1 had spoken at length previewing the match between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev. According to Wilander, Thiem was the clear favorite to win the US Open final.
However, what the Swede couldn't predict correctly was the vigor showed by Zverev.
"I don’t see a way that Thiem doesn’t win it," Wilander had said then.
In his latest column for the French daily, Mats Wilander focused on the mental side of the duel between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev as he said
"Sunday, the two realized perfectly how nervous the other was. I don't know what this game means for the future."
On Sunday, it was made very clear in the slugfest between Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev that a lot of mental fortitude is required to win a single Major - let alone win 17-18 of them. This led to Wilander questioning whether the duo were in the same category as champions like Nadal, Federer and Djokovic.
"I'm not saying Thiem and Zverev won't learn from what happened to them," Wilander said. "I'm just saying that, for the moment, we cannot yet place them in the same category as great champions like Nadal or Djokovic. We still do not know if he will be able to dominate their nerves next time."
While Dominic Thiem has made a fine foray into the elite of men's tennis with his first Slam title at the US Open, he clearly has a long way to go before he can enter the league of legends like Nadal and Djokovic. It remains to be seen whether he can build on this first success and become as mentally strong as the Big 3 in the future.