© Rio Open

Marin Cilic visits the Christ the Redeemer statue Saturday evening before starting his campaign at the Rio Open presented by Claro. Cilic is the top seed.

ATP World Tour Stars Align In Brazil

Players enjoy festive atmosphere before start of Rio Open

The third event of South America's "Golden Swing" gets underway this week, and while Carnival might be coming to a close, the party was just beginning for the players in action at the Rio Open presented by Claro in Brazil. 

Before they took to the court, some of the ATP World Tour's top players took in the sights and sounds of Brazil's "Marvelous City." 

The top-seeded Cilic, who will be playing for the first time in Rio, climbed to the top of the 30-meter tall "Christ the Redeemer" statue that overlooks Rio. The world No. 3 found the experience both enthralling and spiritual. 

"Just getting to the feet of 'Christ the Redeemer' wasn't easy," Cilic said. "It was windy and the machine that took us up there was swaying. Even when we were inside the statue it wasn’t easy to climb; the stairway was narrow and quite steep. But up there at the top, it was an incredible feeling. It's an overcast day; the few moments it wasn't cloudy, I enjoyed it. My legs are still shaking and my heart is beating faster than usual. I'm also quite religious so that's just one more thing that made this so special."

Later that day, Cilic joined Fabio Fognini and doubles duo Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo in the Carnival Champions parade, a public procession that celebrates the city’s samba schools and the music’s roots. 

Fognini, the tournament’s fifth seed, had a good time, even if he had trouble keeping with the rhythm. "I 'tried' to dance," Fognini said. "I was sweating a lot. It's tough to describe because it was so unique."

Melo, a quarter-finalist at last year's event and a finalist at the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals alongside Kubot, was still thankful to take part in the parade. "It was fantastic, so amazing," the Brazilian said. "I'm thankful to have had the opportunity to do this."

Kubot, his teammate, agreed: "This is unbelievable, unreal. This is a great atmosphere, and I'm so thankful to be here."