At the Rio Open on Thursday, in his Round of 16 encounter, the top-seeded Dominic Thiem survived a stern test against Jaume Munar as he overcame the resilient 22-year-old Spaniard 6-7(5-7), 6-3, 6-4 in a match that spanned for two hours and 41 minutes at the Quadra Central. After edging past Munar in an intense battle, the 2020 Australian Open runner-up will now meet Italian, Gianluca Mager in his upcoming quarter-final clash in Rio.
While the title-favourite Thiem dropped a set in each of his opening couple of rounds, 25-year-old Mager is yet to drop a set at this year’s Rio Open. The Italian recoded impressive straight sets victories against Casper Ruud and Joao Domingues in his Round of 32 and the Round of 16 clashes respectively as he prepares to embarce perhaps his biggest test in recent times when he meets Thiem in the quarter-finals.
Interestingly, their upcoming contest would be their first-ever meting on the ATP tour and that certainly is an advantage for Mager, as he approaches his quarter-final clash against Thiem with a sense of nothing to lose approach.
Following his sensational run at the Australian Open earlier this year, Thiem has not yet managed to return to his best form in Rio as he aims to achieve consistency on the tour.
Clay is Thiem’s fortress and in terms of his skills and experience, the 26-year-old Austrian is too far ahead of everyone else at the Rio Open, and would not look to settle for anything less than a title here.
Even in the first set against Munar, where he had a minibreak in the tie-break at 4-3, the talented Austrian would have been gutted with himself for not being able to win that tie-break, especially after winning six of them in a row under extreme pressure at this year’s Australian Open just a few weeks ago.
Thiem has won the title at Rio, back in 2017, and was a victor at the last tournament that he played on clay, where he did not drop even a set all week to lift his maiden title in his home country at Kitzbuhel in August 2019. The Austrian hopes to guard himself against complacency as he enters the business-end of the tournament at the Rio Open.
While the factors like expectations and reputation will play on Thiem’s mind in his upcoming quarter-final clash, his opponent Mager would look forward to play with an absolute sense of freedom as he fancies upsetting the top-seed in a bid to continue his dream run so far in Rio.
Can Thiem, riding on his momentum, cruise to a routine win over Mager to seal a semi-final berth or will Mager, who hasn’t dropped a set yet, stun the 26-year-old Austrian to continue his fairy-tale journey at this year’s Rio Open?
It would be exciting to witness how Thiem fares against Mager in a much-awaited quarter-final clash on Friday.
Prediction: Dominic Thiem to win in straight sets.