"I put a lot of work in. I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one of the four majors. Now I did it"
Monday 14 September 2020 14:15, UK
Dominic Thiem says he "achieved a life goal" after putting on a display of mental and physical resilience to win the US Open title.
Thiem stumbled across the finish line on his third match point despite barely being able to walk as he defeated his good friend Alexander Zverev in a five-set marathon as they endured the most emotionally-draining four hours of their lives.
Ever since Novak Djokovic's disqualification ensured the first new men's Slam champion for six years, the question had been which of the young contenders would seize his chance.
It was the Austrian's fourth Grand Slam final after two losses to Rafael Nadal at the French Open and one to Novak Djokovic in Australia, and he admitted: "I was so tight in the beginning.
"Maybe it was not even good that I played in previous major finals. I wanted this title so much, and of course there was also in my head that if I lose this one, it's 0-4.
"It's always in your head: Is this chance ever coming back again? This, that, all these thoughts, which are not great to play your best tennis, to play free."
At the moment of victory he collapsed to the court in elation and exhaustion before sharing a hug with a disconsolate but sporting Zverev.
Thiem said: "Definitely I achieved a life goal, a dream of myself, which I had for many, many years. Of course, as a kid, as well, when I started to play tennis. But back then it's so far away.
"Then I got closer and closer to the top. At one point I realised that, 'Wow, maybe one day I can really win one of the four biggest titles in tennis'.
"I put a lot of work in. I dedicated basically my whole life until this point to win one of the four majors. Now I did it."
Zverev will surely be reliving the agonies of this occasion for some time. He broke down during the presentation ceremony when he talked about his parents, who were unable to attend the tournament after testing positive for Covid-19.
The German said later: "Obviously being two sets to love and a break up in a Grand Slam final then losing is not easy.
"I was super close to being a Grand Slam champion. I was a few games away, maybe a few points away. What upset me the most is not the third set, it's the fifth set. I had a lot of chances in the fifth set and didn't use them.
"I'm 23 years old. I don't think it's my last chance. I do believe that I will be a Grand Slam champion at some point."
In this unique season, the pair must now try to leave this occasion behind and focus on clay, with the French Open starting in two weeks.
Most people expected Roland Garros to be the venue for Thiem's Slam breakthrough, and he said: "I think physically I'm going to be fine. I'm going to have enough time to recover from all the troubles I had.
"But the question is how I'm going to do it with the emotions mentally. Obviously, I've never been in this situation. I achieved a big, big goal. At the same time, I expect that it's going to be easier for me now in the biggest tournaments."