By Claire Rivé, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The highlight of last night’s session of the inaugural Rio Open tennis tournament was undoubtedly the defeat of seventh seed Juan Monaco by low-ranking local, Thomaz Bellucci, coming back from a set down to fight his way into the quarter-finals with a score of 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
The Brazilian Bellucci struggled heavily on his first serves but compensated by dominating net play, while Monaco’s lack of consistency and insistence on continuing an ineffective baseline strategy failed him. In the final set, Bellucci had little more to do than wait for the Argentine to play a wild baseline shot.
Bellucci’s joy may be short-lived as he comes up against second-seeded David Ferrer in the quarters, fresh from his clay court Argentinian Copa Claro victory and looking to fortify his entry into the ATP’s top four.
Even though Ferrer did not dispatch Federico Delbonis as swiftly as expected in their second round match last night – needing a tiebreak to seal the first set before annihilating the Argentinian in the second (7-6, 6-1) – Bellucci will not get past him to book a place in the semis without tightening up his game, regardless of how much the crowd is behind their home boy.
Tournament favorite and world number one, Rafael Nadal, cruised through to the second round at the Jockey Club in Gavéa, beating Daniel Gimeno-Traver, and showed no hint of the back injury that plagued him at the Australian Open a few weeks ago and caused him to withdraw from the Argentinian Copa Claro last week.
“Daniel is a specialist on clay, so for me it was a great match after so much time off after the final in Australia because of the back problems,” Nadal said. “I practiced very little. So I was happy to get back, and get back with a victory.” Nadal will play fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes on Center Court tonight.
The Rio Open is South America’s only combined event on the ATP 500 World Tour and WTA International calendar, which means the ladies will also be looking to pick up some points this week. With Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone (ITA) knocked out in the first round by Lourdes Domínguez Lino (ESP), top seed Klara Zakopalova (CZE) is the firm favorite.
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