Zverev left reeling after Grand Slam slips through his fingers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Alexander Zverev said it was too soon to look for the positives in his U.S. Open campaign as the devastated German struggled to come to terms with Sunday’s five-set defeat to Dominic Thiem in the Flushing Meadows final.

Sep 13 2020; Flushing Meadows, New York, USA; Alexander Zverev of Germany holds the finalist trophy after his match against Dominic Thiem of Austria (not pictured) in the men's singles final match on day fourteen of the 2020 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

After winning the opening two sets in his first Grand Slam final, the 23-year-old looked set for victory until second seed Thiem fought back, taking the title in a tiebreak as an exhausted Zverev struggled through a thigh cramp that neutralized his powerful serve.

“I was super close to being a Grand Slam champion. I was a few games away, maybe a few points away,” he told reporters. “I don’t think it’s my last chance. I do believe that I will be a Grand Slam champion at some point.”

The fifth seed said the turning point in the four-hour thriller came when Thiem broke his serve for the first time in the third set, a break which reversed the momentum of the match.

“He started playing much better and I started playing much

worse,” said Zverev, who also lost to Thiem in the Australian Open semi-final earlier this year.

Asked if he could point to any positives from his time at Flushing Meadows, he was blunt: “That question is probably two, three days too early to ask right now.”

During the on-court trophy presentation Zverev tearfully thanked his parents, whom he said had both contracted the novel coronavirus.

“Unfortunately my dad and my mother got tested positive before the tournament and they couldn’t have gone with me. I miss them,” he said, pausing to compose himself.

“I’m sure they’re sitting at home, even though I lost they’re pretty proud.”

He later told reporters he was so lost in the moment that he could not recall what he had said.

“Losing 7-6 in the fifth after being two sets to love and a break up is not easy,” he said. “At the speech, I mean, I got emotional. I couldn’t put two words together.

“Yeah, it was a difficult moment for me.”

Editing by Peter Rutherford