So it’s Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev in a Big 4-less final at the US Open on Sunday. The title match will crown the first new Grand Slam champion in six years since Marin Cilic beat Kei Nishikori way back in 2014 in New York. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait another six after tomorrow. I don’t think we will.
Thiem, though, is the class of the post-Big 4. He’s going to lurk in the Top 5 (likely reach No. 1) for the next 4-5 years. The guy is a workhorse in a time when I don’t see a lot of workhorses, at least not among the younger guys.
Zverev is in that bunch. The German has all the tools, the size and talent but I’m not 100% convinced he’s willing to put the work in like a Thiem. Still, credit to him for beating Borna Coric and then coming from two sets down to deny Pablo Carreno Busta.
Both those guys are good players, but not at the Thiem level.
The Austrian is a tireless beast from the ground and he’s got a decent serve, good return. He has weapons and a lot of them.
Zverev has his own weapons. A powerful serve, a very good backhand, good forehand and excellent speed for a guy his size. His problem is and has been between the ears. David Ferrer is the latest coach to try to get through to him and for now, it seems to be working (though that Carreno Busta match might suggest otherwise).
Point is, Zverev is starting to blossom. Instead of racking up wins in Masters, he’s now doing it in Slams. And his game can beat anyone on any given day. Anyone!
In this series, Thiem leads 7-2. He’s won all three in Slams including a tight one at the Australian Open back in January.
This will be their 10th meeting, so they know each other well, or should.
The key is this match is the Zverev serve. That’s the biggest shot on the court. If Zverev can serve a high first serve percentage and serve big, he’ll win. With his size, a big serve followed by a big forehand to the open court, which Thiem will leave given he stands so far back, is money.
Zverev’s problem is his serve just hasn’t been there. Nor has his game been consistent. Thiem’s has. There just haven’t been any letdowns from Dominic this event (there was in Cincinnati/NYC!). And I think the experience of having played three Slam finals before will help.
That said, the pressure this time will be on Thiem to win. But I think he’ll be fine.
Like I said, Zverev struggled with guys like Coric, Carreno Busta, Adrian Mannarino and even Brandon Nakashima gave him trouble. You could make the case Coric should have beaten him and certainly, in the last round, the Spaniard. They didn’t and that’s got something to do with Zverev. So here he is.
Again, Zverev will need to serve really well and play aggressive – step in, take the ball early. He’s also played a lot of tennis, so this is new. After five months off, how fit is he? We’ll find out. We know Thiem is, though he does have some heel/foot issue.
But assuming Thiem is 100%, I think he rises to the occasion and after three failed attempts, he gets his first (and not last) Grand Slam title.
The Pick: Thiem in 3
Sure, why not! A guy who prefers the clay wins the US Open for a second straight year over a tall hard court player. Makes sense, I guess.
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