September 12, 2020
Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev will meet on Sunday evening in the German speakers’ US Open final.
A new Grand Slam champion will then be crowned. One who was born in the 1990s.
Such things are unheard-of in this golden era of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
The next generation finally has a priceless opportunity.
The Austrian Thiem and German Zverev are great friends. But they will put that camaraderie aside to chase glory at Flushing Meadows.
We’re pleased for their fans and hope Domi and Sascha also shine at Wimbledon 2021.
Wimbledon has had a special relationship with Germany for a long time now, personified in popular heroes such as Boris Becket and Steffi Graf.
Tennis fans from that part of Europe will no doubt have an extra spring in their step when they return to Wimbledon.
Yes, the youngsters are breaking through. This is Zverev’s first Grand Slam final.
For Thiem it is showpiece number four. And at 27 he isn’t particularly young in tennis terms.
That will just make Domi even hungrier for success.
He admitted: ‘I’m desperate to win my first title. Him too, in his first try. For me it’s the fourth.
‘If I don’t win this one, it’ll start getting in my head a bit. It’s all or nothing.’
Zverev will hope to play on that anxiety if he sees Thiem tightening and trying too hard to fulfil his potential at last.
Sascha isn’t there to make up the numbers, though. He explained: ‘I couldn’t be happier but there’s still one step to go for me.’
And that step involves lifting the trophy instead of Thiem. Can Zverev do it?
He will come into the match as underdog and that may help him.
Sascha has the natural ability to pull off a shock if his game comes together.
Remember his extraordinary performances to win the ATP finals in London a couple of years ago?
Much depends on whether Zverev’s serve and forehand click from the start.
They didn’t during his somewhat tortuous 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Pablo Carreno Busta. Not for two sets anyway.
‘It was getting to the point where it was embarrassing, to be honest,’ admitted Sascha.
No matter. He is now just where he wants to be. And this is the final we predicted.
We didn’t expect either player to reach the big day like this, though.
If there was going to be a five-setter we imagined it would come in the other semi-final between Domi and Daniil Medvedev.
Instead Thiem somehow won in three, although he endured some painful moments.
‘This was one hundred percent my toughest straight sets win and I could have been 2-1 down in sets,’ he confessed. ‘I don’t like tie-breaks at all, to be honest.’
That didn’t stop Domi from winning by a gruelling 6-2, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5). Daniil served for sets two and three but just couldn’t get over the line.
Thiem raised his game when it really mattered.
But he was suffering from an achilles injury for the second half of the match.
‘My heel was really hurting and then I got free of the pain and I hope that wasn’t just the adrenalin and that I’ll be OK.’
For the sake of a sizzling final, we all hope that too.
But Zverev must show no mercy and try to move Thiem all over the court with unpredictable tennis.
Medvedev had some success with drop shots in the semi-final and Domi didn’t always look impressive at the net.
The more creative Sascha can be, and the more he mixes up the exchanges, the more chance he will have.
For all that, Thiem should take his first Geand Slam if his body allows. This is his time.
Yet it will seem so strange to watch a Grand Slam final without Djokovic, Federer or Nadal.
The Big Three will be back in the mix for Wimbeldon 2021. How we will love their return!
Best to make sure you see the all-time greats in action while you still can. This could even be Federer’s last Wimbledon.
A seat on Centre Court to see the legends do battle will be very special indeed at Wimbledon 2021.
But let’s enjoy the New York final for what it is. The start of the changing of the guard.
Thiem deserves his shot at glory more than anyone else.
That doesn’t mean Zverev can’t strike gold at the first attempt.
For Germany and Austria in particular, this will be a wonderful occasion.
Two good friends and magnificent players will remember the 2020 US Open final for the rest of their lives.