© Joao Pires/Fotojump

Pablo Carreno Busta storms back from a set and a break down to overcome Casper Ruud in the Rio de Janeiro semis.

Carreno Busta Rallies Past Ruud, Sets Thiem Final In Rio

Spaniard saves 1 M.P. to survive Norwegian teen

It took nearly two hours and an impressive comeback, but Pablo Carreno Busta would not be denied his place in the final at the Rio Open presented by Claro, dismissing Casper Ruud on Saturday evening. Carreno Busta withstood a stern test from the Norwegian teen, storming back from a set and a break down and saving one match point to prevail 2-6, 7-5, 6-0.

The Spaniard advanced to his fifth ATP World Tour final and first at the 500 level, setting a clash against World No. 8 Dominic Thiem. Ruud, meanwhile, saw his fairytale week in Rio de Janeiro come to a close after claiming his first tour-level match wins to reach the final four.

The Norwegian came out firing at the Jockey Club Brasiliero. Impregnable off the ground in the early stages, the 18 year old refused to be rattled by the occasion of his first ATP World Tour semi-final, using his agility and forehand to dictate play for over a set and a half. But after falling behind 6-2, 4-2, Carreno Busta took his game to the next level, using his experience to survive the encounter. Ruud's mettle was put to the test in the ninth game, surviving three break points for a 14-minute hold of serve, but Carreno Busta stayed the course, saving a match point while serving down 5-4. He would break to love for 6-5 and reeled off 11 of the last 12 games to earn a spot in the final opposite Thiem.

 Watch Full Match Replays

World No. 208 Ruud is projected to soar to a career-high Top 140 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday. With his run to the semis, he became the youngest semi-finalist on the ATP World Tour since Borna Coric in Basel 2014 and the lowest-ranked player to reach a 500-level semi-final since World No. 285 Alexander Zverev in Hamburg earlier that year. Ruud's father Christian remains the only Norwegian to reach an ATP World Tour final, finishing runner-up in Bastad in 1995. 

Earlier in the day, Thiem made quick work of Albert Ramos-Vinolas, prevailing 6-1, 6-4 to seal his place in his 11th ATP World Tour title match.

"I'm really happy this week," said Thiem. "I raised my game with every match. I'm happy to be back on clay in general, and I honestly didn't expect the transition to go so fast. I think I'm a better player than I was last year, so we'll see how the final will go tomorrow."

The Austrian has proven that his game translates on all surfaces and one week after competing on the indoor hard courts of Rotterdam, he has had little trouble adapting to the conditions in Rio de Janeiro. The second seed has yet to drop a set all week on the South American clay, racing to a 6-1 lead in Saturday's first semi-final behind a pair of quick breaks. He was relentless from the baseline, striking winners off both wings with conviction and forcing Ramos-Vinolas into uncomfortable positions.

Thiem would secure the immediate advantage in the first game of the second set and while the Spaniard would draw level with a break back for 4-4, he reinstated the lead in the next game and served it out after one hour and 22 minutes. He fired 21 winners and benefited from 32 unforced errors.

The 23 year old will be appearing in the final of a third different tournament on the Latin American Golden Swing, having lifted the trophy in both Buenos Aires and Acapulco last year. He will square off against Carreno Busta for the sixth time, owning a 5-1 edge in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. They most recently met in the 2016 US Open third round, with Thiem rallying from a set down to advance in four.