Alexander Zverev couldn’t believe it.
Up two-sets-to-love over Dominic Thiem in the US Open final, the world No. 7 looked destined to finally break his hoodoo and win his first grand slam title.
But fate had other ideas and Thiem staged a historic comeback to clinch the decider in a fifth-set tiebreak that saw the Austrian erase the pain of three previous defeats in major finals.
Slumped in his chair after match point with his head in his hands, Zverev was at a loss.
With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal absent, and Novak Djokovic disqualified after hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a ball, here was the best opportunity the German has ever had at a major — and he blew it.
The pain on his face was clear to see and his emotions spilled out during a touching speech at the trophy presentation that broke hearts across the tennis world.
Zverev congratulated Thiem and thanked his entourage, saying he will one day hold up a grand slam trophy.
“I don’t know where to start. I’d like to congratulate Dominic on the first of many grand slam titles,” he said. “It was a tough battle — I wish you would have missed a little more.
“Here I am giving a runner-up speech. Thanks to my team for sticking with me — the last two years have not been easy — hopefully one day we will lift this trophy.”
But the waterworks started flowing when the 23-year-old started talking about his parents.
“There are some special people missing in the crowd today. I want to thank my parents,” Zverev said as he started crying, needing to step away from the microphone to gather himself while wiping away tears.
“They’re always with me in every single tournament that I go to. Unfortunately, my dad and mother tested positive (to COVID-19) before the tournament and they couldn’t have gone with me.
“I miss them.”
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Zverev was absolutely shattered.Source:Getty Images
Zverev stepped away again as he became overwhelmed with emotion.
“Man, this is tough,” he said when he regained his composure. “I’m sure they’re sitting at home and even though I lost, they’re pretty proud.”
Tennis reporter Tumaini Carayol said the speech was “very touching” while fellow writer Nikhila Makker tweeted: “This is a super emotional speech from Zverev. I feel for him so much.”
Commentator Nick McCarvel said: “Sascha Zverev opening his heart on international TV. That was as real as it gets.”
American journalist Bill Canacci called it a “moving speech” while Dan Levy wrote: “Respect to Zverev for that speech. Lot of dignity there.”
Watching the Alexander Zverev speech. pic.twitter.com/fn0J2kXgCh
Thiem was all class in his speech, paying tribute to a distraught Zverev.
“I’d also like to start with you, Sascha. We started to know each other in 2014 when we were both ranked 100th or something and straight away we developed a great friendship,” he said.
“Then in 2016, I think, our great rivalry started again and we made great things happen on and off the court.
“It is amazing how far our journey brought us.
“I wish we could have two winners today, we both deserve it.”
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