I think for most people involved with this match, including fans (other than Zverev family and fans), the feeling associated with this win is relief.
Thiem has been knocking on the door. Most people see Thiem as “deserving” of this title. Granted, this seems like an odd way to describe a championship. One has to earn a win, a title, a championship or some other sort of career defining accolade.
Many would say that Thiem’s short career has already defined this aura of sympathy, considering his consistency over the last few years, his close-calls, his valiant efforts in huge matches against all comers, especially the Big 3, on all surfaces, all of which has earned him this kind of “you deserve this” pat on the back.
Obviously, this match started-off bad for Thiem, yet brilliant for the German.
Two parts to what happened here: Thiem’s court position and Zverev’s form.
- Many, including Thiem, will say he was tight, too nervous to get off on the right foot and into his comfort zone early in that match. Part of this is that set of circumstances I mention above; even the Austrian knows he’s paid his dues, has been playing well, so everyone expects him to win. Indeed, he was the favorite. That’s a different approach to a big match, something he’s certainly not used to, which puts the Big 3 in perspective. He felt the pressure, too much.
But that’s not what I wanted to point-out here. One of my biggest criticisms of Thiem (probably my only criticism of him, for years now) has been his court position. He’s back in that Nadal territory, asking the back line judge to move. It’s a bad look, embarrassing really and not very effective. He might have stepped a few feet deeper given the nerves. But he’s too far back too often. He was ripe to get abused by a big hitting, forward thinking athlete.
- In the first set and a half, Zverev was in form. Nothing like the form he so often displays (see his SF match vs PCB). This was that three-time Masters 1000 champ form, ATP Finals champ form. Remember the 2018 ATP Finals, where in the SF/F Sascha beat Federer 5 and 6(5) and then Djokovic 4 and 3 to claim the title? We’ll call that a nice run.
I wrote this in my commentary of that year-end tournament:
“But I thought the Zverev serve and volley was pretty consequential. He’s always had that in his game, he could come to net and surprise us with some delicacy. But his approach to net was an issue for Novak. Novak’s approach seemed not as effective.
Zverev was just consistently good, from everywhere. The serve remained very solid. Hitting FS at 140+ is a serious weapon. And his rallies were simply solid, patient. That two-hander kept him in rallies, perhaps ahead in those exchanges that often ended when he’d follow a big ground-stroke to net to end the point.
Good stuff from the German. #2 take-away, so you’re following, is that Novak’s serve broke-down (was broken down) and Sascha was simply more impressive, especially that serve and volley.“
We’ve seen this Zverev form before. He will literally hit opponents off the court and/or come to net and out-class. He can handle himself at net, no doubt. Add that to #1 above and you have the Nadal HC antidote, or in this case a Deutschland blitzkreig and reclamation of its more passive Bavarian ancestry, oh peaceful Austria.
Of course, Thiem found his way (found his serve finally) and Zverev began to revert to some of that less assertive, less attacking tennis. Tough to maintain that kind of high level I suppose.
Not much more to say at this point. Happy for Thiem. Happy to see Sascha play that well, too. That is a legitimate game: a 6’6″ S&V type who can hit 135+ FS and fire ground strokes, easily, through the court on both wings. He needs to deal with that SS, of course.
That was almost a tough watch there at the end seeing how these two struggled to get across the finish line, no?
Onward to Rome, then to Paris.
Let’s see the Djoker find his clay game — could be in for a Novak Rafa Rome final.