The 25-year-old Brazilian Thiago Monteiro is off to a winning start in Buenos Aires, beating Jaume Munar 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 41 minutes for his first ATP victory of the season on clay, already conquering a Challenger title two weeks ago.
Monteiro was safe and dry after landing the first serve in, struggling on the second big-time and facing 11 break chances, fending off ten of those to limit the damage in his games and forcing Munar to follow those numbers to stay in touch.
Jaume also played against 11 break chances, losing serve four times to push the opponent into the next round and experience the fourth loss of the season. Monteiro grabbed an early break in the second game, erasing five break chances in the next one and closing the opener with a steady hold at 5-3.
The second set offered plenty of opportunities for both and it was the Brazilian who earned three breaks that kept him safe despite a fearsome battle in the last couple of games. Asked about the rivals from the top, Thiago described Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as the toughest players to beat out there, picking his idol Rafael Nadal as mentally the toughest player in history of tennis.
Federer, Nadal and Novak are still above all of their rivals, claiming the title at last 13 Majors and finishing the previous season in the top-3, the same place there were 12 years ago for the first time. Three legends have been included in thrilling GOAT race for years now, with Federer leading the pack with 20 Majors, one more than Rafael Nadal and three in front of Novak Djokovic who conquered the Australian Open two weeks ago.
"Rafa is my idol; I watch how he plays all the time because he is a left-hander, just like me," Monteiro said. "Without a doubt, he is a great competitor and mentally the most reliable player in tennis history; it is difficult to find someone like him. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are more superior to the rest of the field but my pick is Rafa."