A dramatic fifth set tiebreak heralded the end of six year wait for men’s tennis finally to gain a new Grand Slam champion – the Austrian who for two years has looked like the next cab off the rank.
At the fourth time of asking Dominic Thiem has his first Major, won amid nerve-shredding tension before the most minor of crowds at the US Open inside the near deserted Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 27-year-old from the market town of Lichtenworth, virtually hobbling with soreness by the end, triumphed 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 in just under four hours. At times it seemed like the match nobody wanted to win.
Thiem finally clinched it 8-6 in the tiebreak on his third match point, having made a horrible mess of two straightforward forehands when he had chances at 6-4 and 6-5 after two double faults from his opponent.
He was hobbling at times through leg soreness by the end as he faced down his close friend and rival, his nerve just about holding up.
Finally, having nosed ahead for 7-6, Zverev swung a backhand wide into the tramlines and the world No 3 was the champion.
Whether it will prove a stepping stone to usurping the Big Three remains to be seen, but bagging the first big one is crucial, and he has avoided the fate of Andy Murray, who lost his first four Major finals.
The first four sets were largely forgettable, with their quality of play failing to dovetail at any point, and their levels crossing over halfway through the third set.
Nearly three hours were on the clock as they went into the decider, which Thiem began with a break that was quickly wiped out as Zverev stemmed his momentum.
Fifth sets are about heart as much as technique or even fitness, and although there was no crowd to feed off the German became notably more animated as he sensed his chance.
Having edged ahead for 4-3 he pounced, gaining a break point on one of Thiem’s many missed forehands and then driving forward to punch a forehand into the corner to move ahead for 5-3.
But the pressure proved too much and what had been his banker shots on the night, his backhand and volley, let him down as is nerve crumbled the Austrian broke him straight back to fifteen.
Thiem was now starting to limp a little but the adrenalin was getting him through.
He forced a break point at 5-5 and then gratefully received two groundstroke errors from the wobbling Zverev, calling for treatment on his calf as he prepared to serve for his destiny.