Zverev Reaches First Grand Slam Final At US Open

WASHINGTON, September 12, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

For the first time in 16 years, the men’s semifinals at a Grand Slam tournament happened without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic. How about that!

With no Big Three in the mix – Roger is recovering from multiple knee surgeries, Rafa opted out of defending his 2019 US Open title due to coronavirus travel concerns and Novak was disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct on Sunday – it meant a chance for other stars to shine on Arthur Ashe Stadium Friday.

In the first semifinal, 20th seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain started quicky out of the starting gate, winning the first two sets easily before fifth seed Alexander Zverev from Germany woke up and decided he wanted to win.

After two hours and 44 minutes, the match was level with Carreño Busta winning sets one and two by 6-3 and 6-2 scores, while sets three and four went Zverev’s way, 6-3 and 6-4.

With a one-set winner-take-all, it became a matter of who wanted to win it the most. It turns out it was the resilient Zverev, who in a remarkable turnaround, came back to defeat Carreño Busta 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 to reach both his first US Open final and his first Grand Slam final. Imagine for a moment what it would be like if Zverev played every set like it was a fifth set. Instead, it was three hours and 23 minutes filled with plenty of peaks and valleys.

Zverev became the first German male to reach a US Open final since Michael Stich lost to Andre Agassi in the 1994 US Open final. He’s also the first German male in a Grand Slam final since Rainer Schütler lost to Agassi in the 2003 Australian Open title match.

Meanwhile, in the second semifinal – the Top 5 “main event” if you will – second seed Dominic Thiem of Austria battled and beat third seed Daniil Medvedev from Russia for the other berth in Sunday’s final. Thiem reached his fourth major final with a 6-2, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5) victory in two hours and 56 minutes. He became the first Austrian man to reach the singles final at the US Open.

Thiem rallied from a break down in each of the final two sets against Medvedev in a very physical, anything-but-routine contest between two hungry competitors. Come Sunday, Thiem will get the chance to win his first Grand Slam singles title.

“After the first set, I think it was great tennis from both of us,” said Thiem, discussing his victory in his on-court interview. “He served for the sets in both sets two and three, and I played my best tennis. Both tie-breaks were amazing. Tie-breaks are really a mentally tough thing. I don’t really like them at all. You’re playing for the US Open finals, you’re up 5-1 and it looks comfortable and one or two points and it gets close again. … I’m really happy to be through and into the finals.”

Regardless of who wins between Thiem and Zverev, one of them will become the first new Grand Slam men’s singles champion in six years.

Looking back, what’s notable about Zverev’s performance is it marked the first time in his relatively young career – remember, he’s still only 23-years-old – that he has won a match after losing the first two sets. (He’s 14-6 in all five-set matches.) However, he chose a great time to break down that barrier and because of it, he’s one giant step closer to winning a major title.

“I was actually looking at the scoreboard when I was down two sets to love,” Zverev said during his post-match on-court interview. “I was like, I can’t believe it. I’m playing in a semifinal where I’m supposed to be the favorite, and I am down two sets to love, and I have no chance, I’m playing that bad.

“So, I knew I had to come up with better tennis and knew I had to be more stable.”

Later, during his virtual press conference, Zverev expanded on his earlier thought.

“Even though I was down two sets to love, I stayed in it. I gave myself the best chance I could.

“I think a lot of players would have gone away. I knew, look, it’s a Grand Slam semifinal. There’s no easy matches anymore. Sometimes you have to big deep.

“Today I dug deep, dug very deep. At the end of the day I’m sitting here as the winner of that match, which could have been very different.”

Zverev used his firepower to hit 24 service aces and eight double faults, too. While he won 78 percent of his first-serve points and hit 71 winners, he also committed 57 unforced errors. While some of his key indicators are positively reflecting upon his potential to win this most unlikely US Open, others are still red-lining and require attention if he’s going to be able to beat Thiem.

When Zverev was asked who he would rather face in the final – Medvedev or Thiem – he said: “I’m 5-1 against Medvedev and 2-7 against Dominic so you can probably imagine who I want to win. But at the same entire Dominic is my friend so I will probably pull for him.”

First-time partners Siegemund and Zvonareva win women’s doubles title

Laura Siegemund of Germany and Vera Zvonareva from Russia had never teamed together to play doubles – let alone in a Grand Slam. The unseeded pair completed their run to the US Open women’s doubles title with a surprising straight-set victory over No. 3 seeds Nicole Melichar from the United States and Xu Yifan of China, 6-4, 6-4, on Arthur Ashe Stadium Friday afternoon.

The match lasted just 79 minutes, but it was a memorable last match to the championship. Siegemund and Zvonareva won 79 percent of their first-serve points, hit 27 winners between them and broke their opponent’s serve three times. They outpointed Melichar and Xu 64-54.

“I think these moments like today, memories of these moments, they kind of keep you going,” the 36-year-old Zvonareva said. She’s back on tour after giving birth to her daughter, Evelyn. “It’s special. It’s something that you worked so hard for. Then, you’re able to lift that trophy. I think, yea, this is one of the reasons to continue playing.”

Siegemund said it wasn’t a random choice that she and Zvonareva played together. “We both feel like we can complement each other’s game. Then, something that turns out during the journey through the two weeks is that you really, like, in our case, I really realized her game style is complementing me. …

“But the communication has to be really spot on, the way you prepare for a match, how you do tactics, all that, it just fit reall well. That’s something that you realize down the road.”

Friday’s results

Saturday’s order of play

US Open Wheelchair Competition

What they’re saying – Pablo Carreño Busta edition

“Three years ago was my first semifinals. I was very happy to do the semifinals. But I think that now it’s not enough we do the semifinals again. It was a good opportunity to continue winning the matches, to try to win the title. With two sets to zero up, is tough to lose, no?

“Of course, I need to continue. This is the way, no? I am playing good. I am feeling comfortable on court. I cannot stop now.”

By the numbers – Alexander Zverev edition

• Alexander Zverev is the youngest Grand Slam finalist since Novak Djokovic, 23, at the 2010 US Open.

• This is the third straight year that Zverev has improved his US Open performance. He reached the second round in 2017, the third round in 2018 and the fourth round last year.

• Through his first six matches en route to the final, Zverev has accumulated 116 service aces.

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