By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In capping a dominant performance in the 2017 Rio Open, Austrian Dominic Thiem prevailed in Sunday’s (February 26th) tournament final, as the number eight best player in the world defeated Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4. The 23-year-old Thiem won all five of his matches in the Rio Open, and didn’t drop a set the entire tournament.
Thiem and Carreno Busta had vastly different paths to Sunday’s championship final. In Saturday’s (February 25th) semi-finals, Carreno Busta survived a grueling match from 18-year-old Norwegian wunderkind, Casper Ruud, storming back from a set down to prevail 2-6, 7-5, 6-0, while Thiem barely broke a sweat making quick work of Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 6-1, 6-4.
The second-seeded Thiem had been the favorite in the tournament since top-seeded Kei Nishikori, the world’s fifth-ranked player, was knocked out in the first round in a shocking upset to local favorite, Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, the 76th-ranked player in the world.
The match was actually tighter than the final result might indicate as both players played even for most of the first set, exchanging early service breaks. However, Thiem would not be denied, coming through in the final game of the first set with a crucial break to take the opening set.
The second set was almost a replay of the first, with Thiem again breaking through at the match’s most pivotal moment with a break in the final game, to take the set, the match, and the championship trophy.
The victory gave Thiem his eighth career ATP title and also preserved his perfect record against Carreno Busta, now at 4-0. For Carreno Busta, he does not leave the 2017 Rio Open empty-handed as he and Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas had won the doubles championship trophy a day earlier, on Saturday.
Thiem now heads to this week’s Mexican Open in Acapulco where he is the defending champion. As Thiem accepted his trophy from Brazilian tennis legend Gustavo Kuerten, also known as Guga, the Austrian had one final message for the capacity crowd at the Jockey Club, “Enjoy the rest of the Carnival!”