On Monday, Dominic Thiem will enter the top-3 for the first time in a career, with Roger Federer skipping all the action until June following knee surgery, losing 500 points he won in Dubai last year. The Austrian will move in front of the Swiss on the live ATP ranking list on Friday night if he reaches the semi-final at the ATP 500 event in Rio de Janeiro, reaching the quarters with a tight 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 triumph over Jaume Munar in two hours and 41 minutes!
The top seed has some small knee issues and hasn't played on a high level in the opening two matches, dropping the opening set against the Spaniard before coming back from a break down in the second, sealing the deal with a late break in the decider to advance into the last eight.
Thiem defeated Munar in Barcelona in back-to-back years and the Spaniard was there to challenge him in the opening set on both occasions, moving a step forward to grab the opener here in Rio before finishing on the losing side following a thrilling conclusion.
Dominic had 40 winners and 43 unforced errors, with Jaume adding 20 winners and 18 unforced mistakes, staying in touch with his forehand and pushing world no. 4 to the limits all the time. Both players had eight break chances and the Austrian delivered better tennis when it mattered the most, fending off six and earning five breaks to cross the finish line first and stay on the title course.
Nothing could separate them in the opener that lasted for over an hour, with one break point saves by Munar and two by Thiem to reach a tie break that Jaume claimed 7-5 following a backhand error from Dominic, taking a big step towards the career-best victory.
With the momentum on his side, Munar grabbed an early break in the second game of the second set when Thiem failed to send a volley over the net, only to lose his serve at 15 in the next game to keep the Roland Garros and the Australian Open finalist alive.
Dominic held at love in game four and grabbed another break in the next game when Jaume landed a double fault. With the advantage on his side, Thiem produced the third break at 5-3 to close the set in style and become the favorite ahead of the decider.
There, he saved two break chances in the first game and moved 4-2 up when Munar netted a forehand in the sixth game. Not ready to give up, the Spaniard forced an error from the Austrian to pull the break and reduce the deficit to 4-3 ahead of the decisive moments of the encounter.
The youngster fired a forehand winner to hold at 15 in game eight, leveling the score at 4-4 and serving to stay in the match two games later. Doing his best to avoid a possible tie break, Thiem created a match point with a forehand winner, denied by a brave forehand winner from Munar who had to accept the defeat when Dominic placed a backhand winner on the second match point that propelled him into the quarters.