Top seed Dominic Thiem endured a stern scare in his opening match at the Rio Open after battling his way to a three-set win over a player ranked 341st in the world.
The world No.4, who hasn’t played on the tour since losing in the final of the Australian Open, ousted Brazilian wild card Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. A 21-year-old player who is yet to crack the world’s top 300 and hadn’t played a top 80 player until his encounter with Thiem on Tuesday.
Despite his blip on the South American clay, Thiem only dropped his serve one in the match as he broke his opponent four times in total. In the final set he dominated proceedings by winning 26 out of the 38 points played.
“I’m very happy with the way I played on the first and third sets and Felipe played unbelievable tennis on the second.” Thiem told rioopen.com.
“I really loved the atmosphere on the central court today. Of course the crowd was cheering for Felipe but that’s normal. Since I won my tittle here I have a special relationship with the fans and the organization of the tournament and that’s why I keep coming back”, he added.
During his clash with Meligeni, Thiem admitted that he was struggling with pain in his knee. Raising concerns about his future participation in the tournament. He sought a medical time out following the first game on the second set and had taping placed under his kneecap.
“It was painful for some minutes but I didn’t pay attention because at that moment everything was fine during the first set.” Thiem told reporters.
“I’ve never had any issues with my knees and it was very scary for me because I felt a sharp pain all of a sudden.’
“I called the physio straight away and he did some tests. He told me that everything was fine and it was probably because I hit my knee (earlier in the week). I was really worried, I never felt that pain in my knee before.”
The timing of the knee scare comes as the Austrian bids to crack the world’s top three for the first time this week. He can overtake Roger Federer in the rankings if he reaches at least the semi-finals of the tournament. At present, he is just 85 points behind the Swiss Maestro.
Awaiting Thiem in the second round will be Spain’s Jaume Munar. The former French Open boy’s finalist defeated Italy’s Salvatore Caruso 7-5, 6-4, in his opening match.
Thiem is one of only four seeded players to have made it to the second round. Along with Dusan Lajovic, Christian Garin and Borna Coric.