World no. 4 and the Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem will return to action next week at the ATP 500 event in Rio de Janeiro, leading the field ahead of Dusan Lajovic, Cristian Garin and Guido Pella following withdrawals from Matteo Berrettini and Diego Schwartzman.
The Austrian decided to skip this week's ATP 250 event in Buenos Aires where he won the title in the past, taking more time off the court and practicing at home in Vienna before traveling to Rio de Janeiro. Thiem started with the training run last Sunday, working on his fitness and with Marko Andrejic and Dennis Novak as a practice partner.
Nicolas Massu has joined the team in Rio de Janeiro and they will seek the first title there since 2017, losing in the opening round a year ago and hoping to earn enough points to pass Roger Federer on the ATP list and become world no.
3 for the first time in a career. After a slow start at the ATP Cup, Thiem defeated world no. 1 Rafael Nadal en route to the final at the Australian Open, leading 2-1 against Novak Djokovic but still finishing on the losing side in his third Major final, the first outside Roland Garros.
Returning to his beloved clay, Thiem should be the favorite for the title next week, especially if he produces tennis that led him towards the final in Melbourne. The two-time Roland Garros finalist is just 85 points behind Roger Federer on the ATP list and should move ahead of the Swiss soon, with Roger defending 500 points in Dubai in two weeks.
Thiem and Federer were the finalists of the first Masters 1000 event of 2019 in Indian Wells, with the Austrian scoring a tight victory in the decider for the first Masters 1000 crown. After that, he claimed the title in Barcelona as well, reaching the semi-final in Madrid and the final in Paris, staying on the winning course in Kitzbuhel, Beijing and Vienna before adding 2000 points to his tally at the ATP Finals and the Australian Open, standing just behind Roger on the ATP ranking list.
"I want to become world no. 3 and I will achieve that with the title here; it's my goal for the upcoming weeks. I love Rio and South America in general. Coming here was an easy decision to make; playing on clay feels like coming home for me."