Second seed Dominic Thiem advanced to the semifinals at the Rio Open with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Argentine Diego Schwartzman.
The Austrian looked in fine form in reaching his first semifinal of the year, breaking Schwartzman’s serve six times. He’ll face fifth seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the last four after the Spaniard recorded a 6-2, 6-3 win over another Argentine, qualifier Nicolas Kicker.
Dominic Thiem sharp in moving on
The second seed was pleased with his performance. “There were many opportunities for him, but I’m happy the way I played on his break points,” Thiem said. “I think it was my best performance here in Rio.”
He was also pleased to be competing on clay, where he’s won five of his seven career titles: “I’m really happy to be back on clay. It fits my game, for sure,” Thiem said. “It’s really good that I’m back on clay because my shots have a lot of power.”
He produced the shot of the year so far, a tweener from behind the baseline. Understandably, he was proud of his effort on that particular point: “It was the best shot I’ve ever hit in my life,” Thiem said proudly.
This is the second career meeting between Ramos-Vinolas and Thiem with the Spaniard posting an easy 6-1, 6-4 win in the quarterfinals of Chengdu last fall.
Surprise participant crashes the last four
The other semifinal will feature fourth seed Pablo Carreno Busta and the surprise of the tournament, Norwegian teenager Casper Ruud.
Ruud, ranked 208th in the world, easily handled Brazilian Thiago Monteiro 6-2, 7-6 (2). Ruud rallied from a 2-5 deficit in the second set and proceeded to dominate the tiebreaker.
Carreno Busta had a much tougher match with Alexandr Dolgopolov, who beat him in the semifinals of Buenos Aires last week.
After the fourth-seeded Spaniard notched the first set tiebreak 7-4, it was the Ukranian who struck back with an easy 7-2 second set tiebreak win. One game and three points were played before Dolgopolov retired with a left hip injury.
Keys to the semifinals
If Dominic Thiem is to have success against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, he’ll need to impose his heavy groundstrokes, especially his backhand to counteract his opponent’s fine lefty serve.
Ramos-Vinolas is most comfortable on clay and he’ll feel confident with a prior win over the Austrian on his weaker surface.
In the other semifinal, Ruud will be feeling no pressure as he enters the match against Carreno Busta as the underdog, much as he did in his previous three matches.
For Carreno Busta, he’ll look at this as a golden opportunity to win his second career title, his confidence high with a second straight semifinal appearance.
Both players play steady baseline games and the key will be who can hold serve more and who will manage their nerves better as they meet for the first time.