Thiem Tremendous Under Pressure To Battle Past Munar In Rio

Austrian into the Rio de Janeiro quarter-finals for the fourth time

Dominic Thiem’s first 13 matches at the Rio Open presented by Claro ended in straight sets. So it’s only fitting that he’s now gone the distance twice in a row in Brazil.

Thiem overcame a set-and-a-break deficit on Thursday evening, battling past 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier Jaume Munar 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes. The Austrian advances to the quarter-finals in Rio de Janeiro for the fourth time on his fifth attempt.

"All that counts is the win," Thiem said. "That's what I did today. I was fighting great from the first to the last point. That's what I'm proud of today and that's what I'm taking on [to the next round]. Tomorrow is a new day."

Munar came out firing from the first point, showing no intention of allowing the powerful top seed to overwhelm him, even if he hadn’t won any of the pair’s four previous ATP Head2Head sets. The Spaniard gave the World No. 4 fits with his speedy defence and a heavy dose of drop shots.

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It’s not too often that Thiem has to scramble for solutions, typically overpowering opponents with the tremendous pace and spin on his groundstrokes. But after badly missing a forehand drop volley to go down 0-2 in the second set, he was running out of options.

"I felt a little bit tight at the beginning and I think when I was a set and a break down a little bit of pressure fell off and then I raised my level a little bit," Thiem said. "When I made a break for 1-2 in the second set I felt this little kick coming through my body and I was able to raise my level and from that moment I was putting a little bit more energy and I was able to turn the match around."

Thiem did not panic, however, breaking back in the next game. And the 2017 champion increasingly backed away from the baseline to take even bigger cuts at the ball, hitting heavier shots to force Munar to drop the ball short, tilting the rallies in his favour.

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It seemed Thiem had the match under control when he broke for 4-2 in the decider. But Munar never faded, forcing Thiem to put him away. The World No. 99 broke back and levelled the score at 4-4 with incredible defence, making the favourite go for more and more.

But once again, Thiem raised his level, limiting his errors in gruelling points. Munar saved one match point with a monstrous forehand down the line that was in by mere millimetres. But Thiem was too good on his second opportunity. The Austrian forced Munar to volley up, allowing him to put away a backhand passing shot.

"I think he's ranked worse at the moment than he's playing. He played a good match, didn't give me any free points. For sure I wasn't at my best again. For sure I'm not yet at my level again which I had in Australia. But it's normal. I'm back on clay for the first time since August."

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Thiem will next play Italian Gianluca Mager, who upset Buenos Aires champion and eighth seed Casper Ruud in the first round.

Mager scored the biggest result of his career on Thursday by dismissing Portuguese Joao Domingues 6-3, 7-6(5) in a battle of qualifiers. The 25-year-old Italian saved a set point on his serve at 4-5 in the second set before eventually moving into his maiden ATP Tour quarter-final. He is projected to surpass his career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of No. 114 on Monday.

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