This year the U.S. Open was wide open.
The greatest player of all time was not competing due to injury. Another great player stayed in Europe. The betting favorite hit a linesperson in the neck.
For the first time in two decades, a Major was going to be won by someone other than the Big Four.
And it looked like it was going to be Zverev.
He had the perfect game plan against Thiem: hit big, serve bigger, come to the net to finish.
Zverev dominated the first two sets. It looked like he was on his way.
The problem is that Zverev has struggled with belief. When doubt creeps in, he gets tentative and starts double faulting.
His mind says, “You’re not thinking of winning this, are you? Silly boy. Here are a few double faults to put you back in your rightful place.”
And it happened again. Zverev hesitated. Thiem came back.
Then, remarkably, Zverev started to believe. He made up a 5th set deficit and got all the way to the finish line. The $3 million payday and immortality were just a few swings away.
But he never got there. His mind let him down again.
He didn’t think he deserved it.
So he didn’t get it.
If we want to win the Big One, the first step is to think we deserve it.
If we don’t, we’ll bail too early, bet too small, double fault the match away, or ignore the opportunity altogether.
Zverev will be back. Hopefully next time he’ll be a believer.
Hopefully we will, too.