It may have been a straight-set win over Daniil Medvedev in the US Open semifinals, but it was anything but easy for Dominic Thiem.
The 27-year-old Austrian fought through an apparent ankle injury to top Medvedev 6-2, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5) and reach his first US Open final, where he will face his good friend Alexander Zverev.
Zverev also had to battle for his spot in the final, erasing a two-set deficit to beat Pablo Carreño Busta on Friday. Both players will be playing for the first career Grand Slam victory, and either will be the first new Grand Slam champion since 2014, when Marin Čilić won the US Open.
Both players have long been considered top contenders to lead the post-Federer-Nadal-Djokovic generation, and their chance to fulfill that promise comes on Sunday.
Thiem felt the pain in second set
“Straight-set win” is usually shorthand for a blowout, but Thiem had to rally big-time in both the second and third sets to put away Medvedev.
Medvedev was a service win away from taking the second set at 5-3, but Thiem won three of the next four games to force a tiebreak. A close tiebreak went Thiem’s way, but a slip midway through led to some pain.
“I slid to the drop shot, and then my heel started to hurt because probably a wrong step or something,” Thiem said to John McEnroe after the match. “It was really hurting, but I changed shoes, a different insole, and then it got better again. So I’m pain-free now, but I hope that it’s not only the adrenaline and the foot also feels good tomorrow.”
It was more of the same in the third set, as Medvedev again found himself a service win away from the set. At one point, Thiem had slipped during a point and loudly yelled about his shoes in German. Still, Thiem broke Medvedev again to reach a tiebreaker and win the match.
Medvedev clearly had the better serve in the match and had more winners (29-22), but Thiem has much fewer unforced errors (44-33).
Can Thiem break through on the hard court?
Long considered one of the best clay players in the world not named Rafael Nadal, Thiem has taken a major step forward on the hardcourt in recent years.
Since the start of 2019, Thiem has won Indian Wells and two more hardcourt tournaments at the Vienna Open and China Open. He reached the final of the Australian Open this year, but fell to Novak Djokovic in a dramatic five-setter.
Thiem has now reached four finals between this year’s hardcourt Grand Slams and the 2018 and 2019 French Open. He’ll have to beat his friend Zverev to finally turn an appearance into a win.
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