Thiem, Zverev to square off in US Open final

Flushing Meadows, New York, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Austria’s Dominic Thiem will face off for the US Open title after hard-fought semifinal wins on Friday.

The fifth-seeded Zverev had to rally from a two-set deficit to defeat Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in a match played on Arthur Ashe Stadium with no fans in attendance due to the coronavirus.

Thiem, the No. 2 seed, cruised in the early going of the second semifinal but then had to fight through an ankle injury before pulling out a 6-2, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5) victory over crafty third-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev.

The 23-year-old Zverev took the court in the day’s first men’s semifinal against the 20th-seeded Carreño Busta and quickly found himself in a heap of trouble.

Unable to control his service games due to a low first-serve percentage (54 percent) in the first set, the German was broken twice en route to a 5-1 deficit.

Although Zverev battled back to 5-3, Carreño Busta clinched the set when his opponent dumped a backhand in the net.

The situation in the Zverev camp then turned much bleaker when the Spaniard capitalized on a slew of unforced errors by the German to jump out to a 5-0 lead in the second set.

The fifth seed managed to claw back one of those service breaks, but Carreño Busta edged closer to his first-ever Grand Slam final by clinching the second set on a Zverev backhand error in the eighth game.

The German’s unforced-error count was triple that of his opponent through the first two sets (36-12), but the tenor of the match changed dramatically starting in the third.

Zverev stopped giving away points from the baseline and that translated into better control of his own service games and more service breaks, including a pivotal one in the sixth game of the third set.

The fifth seed’s serve was then the difference over the last two sets.

He had struggled early in the match due to a poor winning percentage on second-serve points but rectified that problem by simply putting more first serves in play.

After serving at a 57 percent clip over the first two sets, Zverev put 70 percent of his first serves in the court in the fourth set and then 75 percent in play in the fifth set to impose his biggest weapon.

Zverev broke in the opening game of the final set and then was virtually untouchable on serve en route to establishing a 5-3 lead.

Carreño Busta, who also toiled for five sets in his quarterfinal victory over Canada’s Denis Shapovalov on Tuesday, made some tired-looking unforced errors in losing his serve in the final game of the match.

“I’m through to my first Grand Slam final and that’s all that matters,” Zverev was quoted as saying on the ATP Tour’s website. “I knew I had to play better. I’d never come back from two sets to love. That was the first time in my career. But I’m happy to do it at this stage, in the semifinal of a Grand Slam. I couldn’t be happier, but there’s still one more step to go for me.”

He will next take on the 27-year-old Thiem, who also will be playing in his first US Open final.

Unlike Zverez, however, the Austrian has previous experience in Grand Slam championship matches (losses to Spain’s Rafael Nadal in the 2018 and 2019 French Open finals and to Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in the 2020 Australian Open final).

Thiem raced through the first set of his match Friday against Medvedev in much the same way did in handily dispatching Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime and Australia’s Alex de Minaur in the two previous rounds.

Medvedev, who had not lost a set prior to the semifinals, faced a daunting challenge after being bullied from the baseline in the early going.

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