Dominic Thiem has admitted that he had a major problem with nerves in the US Open final before he launched a stunning comeback to beat Alexander Zverev.
The world number three slipped two sets behind as he encountered a serious struggle on Arthur Ashe Stadium in pursuit of his maiden Grand Slam title.
But he has spoken about the belief and confidence that he always retained in himself despite finding it so difficult to play freely in the early stages against the German.
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"Physically I was 100 per cent fine at the beginning of the match," Thiem said. "I had some troubles with the Achilles in the semis, but that worked out great, I didn't feel any pain.
The problem was my nerves. I was super, super tight. I was tighter than in a long time. I didn't even know how that felt anymore and didn't even know how to get rid of that, but somehow I did it in the third set.
"As I said, the emotions, they were much, much tougher to handle today than my body because it was fine.
"It was tough to stay in there and to still believe, but I did. It's a Slam final. I said to myself, 'I'm playing bad, I'm way too tight, my legs are heavy, my arms are heavy'."
Dominic Thiem of Austria celebrates with the championship trophy after winning in a tie-breaker during his Men's Singles final match against Alexander Zverev of Germany on Day Fourteen of the 2020 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Cente
Image credit: Getty Images
The 27-year-old so nearly allowed his early nerves to cost him his maiden Grand Slam title, but he is grateful that he managed to recover just in time.
"I always had hope and the expectation that at one point I would free up. Luckily, it was not too late when I broke him back in the third set. The belief was always there.
"From that moment, when I broke him back for three-all in the third set, the belief got stronger and stronger.
"But the thing is that the belief in myself is not enough because Sascha, I'm sure he believed in himself as well, 100 per cent.
"Two guys like that played a match against each other. That's obviously how it finished, in a fifth-set tie-break."