Thiem has certainly kept himself busy during lockdown, playing here, there and everywhere and while his return to the tour was short-lived with an opening loss in Cincinnati, he has not looked back since the start of the US Open.
Having made consecutive Roland Garros finals, he was a set up on Novak Djokovic in Australia before the Serbian fought back to deny Thiem his maiden Slam, but that was the closes attempt so far for the Austrian.
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Zverev’s start to the year looked and felt disastrous with three straight losses at the ATP cup, before coming good at the Australian open, where he lost to none other than Thiem in the semi-finals. Zverev probably was the one to profit most from Djokovic’s default as he landed in the World No. 1’s half of the draw.
Zverev did his share of exhibitions, including the ill-fated Adria Tour, before irking all and sundry by being pictured partying in Monaco after tweeting he would be in isolation. His comeback to the tour was Andy Murray’s gain as the usual weaknesses in Zverev’s game surfaced.
Few thought he would be able to put together a solid run and in fairness he has battled his way through in spite of the flaws in his game, and not through any miraculous flicking of a switch.
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At 23 years of age, Zverev becomes the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Djokovic at the US Open in 2010, and the first German to reach a Slam final since Rainer Schuettler (2003 Australian Open).
Thiem lands in his fourth Grand Slam final, and has been getting ever closer – no sets in 2018, one against Rafael Nadal last year and two against Djokovic at this year’s Australian Open – so is this his day to go all the way.
What will count for Thiem is his experience at this level. Zverev has had the fearlessness of youth on his side as he has collected Masters titles, but he still has a lot of vulnerability in his game.
Whatever happens though, we will see the first player born in the 1990s lift a US Open crown, and it seems fitting it comes from the slightly older, former next generation of the chasing pack.
Thiem has all the experience and will come in ever so slightly fresher than Zverev, who had the task of coming back from two sets down and while the adrenalin will have been pumping, it all comes down to game management – and Thiem is just a little more consistent.
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