First-timers battle for glory | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 13, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:26 AM, September 13, 2020

First-timers battle for glory

For the first time in four years, a Grand Slam men's singles tournament will end without Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic as the champion.

Dominic Thiem of Australia will face friend and first-time Grand Slam finalist Alexander Zverev of Germany for their first Grand Slam titles after they won their last-four matches in contrasting styles on Friday.

Sunday's final will see a first-time Grand Slam champion for the first time since Croatian Marin Cilic won at Flushing Meadows in 2014. It also means there will be a Grand Slam champion other than Djokovic, Nadal or Federer for the first time since Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka won the third of his tennis majors at the US Open in 2016.

One can expect some great attacking tennis from both players. Zverev will, however, have to be cautious in the way he approached in the semifinal. The German simply cannot expect to get away with the several inconsistencies that he displayed against Carreno Busta.

The German will have to introduce a lot more variety into his game, especially from the mid-court area to try and close out the points against Thiem. Indulging in long, baseline rallies will only draw out more errors from his groundstrokes and thus tilt the balance in favor of Dominic Thiem.

Thiem will look to dominate the game from the baseline as he did so superbly against Medvedev in the semifinal. On return games especially one can find the Austrian displaying a touch of Rafael Nadal by standing several feet behind the baseline. This not only helps him take the pace off the ball but also affords him a bit more court length to execute his topspin induced groundstrokes.

Thiem hopes fourth time's the charm after seizing on yet another chance to win his first-ever Grand Slam title. The 27-year-old, who has reached a Grand Slam final three times - only to lose on each occasion, well aware of the heartbreak that could be in store should he once again be denied.

"It's the biggest goal and also the biggest dream I have in my tennis career since a few years," the world number three told reporters.

"Since the moment I realized that maybe one day I can make it, and especially since I played the first finals of the French Open (in 2018). This was the biggest goal I want to achieve."

Thiem lost to Rafa Nadal at Roland-Garros in 2018 and 2019. But his greatest disappointment came at the hands of world number one Novak Djokovic, who overcame Thiem's best efforts in a four-hour-long, five-set thriller at the Australian Open this year.

Thiem joked he will be giving Britain's Andy Murray a call if he suffers a fourth straight Grand Slam final defeat on Sunday.

Zverev becomes the first German man to reach the final of a tennis major since Rainer Schuttler at the 2003 and is bidding to become the first German men's Grand Slam champion since Boris Becker won the 1996 Australian Open.

"I'm through to my first Grand Slam final and that's all that matters. Sunday is going to be extremely difficult. But I'm looking forward to it. I'm in the final of a Grand Slam. The two best players in the world are going to be playing on court," said Zverev.

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