Verdasco Topples Thiem In Rio
Dominic Thiem entered his semi-final at the Rio Open presented by Claro 30-5 on clay since the beginning of last season. Those losses came against Rafael Nadal (3), Novak Djokovic and David Goffin. It didn’t hurt that he was the defending champion in Rio de Janeiro, either, as well as last week’s winner in Buenos Aires.
But the Austrian was shocked by eighth seed Fernando Verdasco, who delivered a blistering performance to oust the second seed 6-4, 6-0 on Friday evening. The Spaniard moves into his first ATP World Tour semi-final since 2017 Stockholm as he pursues his first final since losing to Andy Murray last year in Dubai.
"I knew that if I wanted to beat a player like him, I'd have to play all or nothing. I'd have to play all my best shots, try to play aggressively every point no matter what happens," said Verdasco, the former World No. 7. "I cannot really ask for more."
It was just the third time that Thiem has lost a set 0-6 on clay at the tour-level, with both of those instances coming last year against Djokovic (Rome) and Nadal (Roland Garros). Verdasco is into the final four in Rio de Janeiro in his first appearance at the event.
"Amazing week. Amazing place. [I've] been waiting so long to play here," the 34-year-old said. "I'm so happy to be in the semi-finals."
Verdasco, who has now won six consecutive sets against Thiem, extends his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against the World No. 6 to 3-0. The left-hander next plays fifth seed Fabio Fognini, who battled back to defeat Argentina Open finalist Aljaz Bedene 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1.
The Italian has had an impressive week of comebacks in Brazil, coming back from a set and 4-0 down in the first round and saving match point against Tennys Sandgren in the second round before overcoming the Slovenian in the quarter-finals. The Italian seeks his sixth ATP World Tour title this week.
Earlier in the day, sixth seed Diego Schwartzman moved past the dangerous Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-4 in just 83 minutes.
"Against Gael it’s never easy," Schwartzman said. "The match was weird. Sometimes we played bad points, sometimes we played good points. He was a break up both sets and then I came back and I am really happy for that because after that I started to play well in both sets."
The Argentine is into his first tour-level semi-final since 2017 Antwerp a week after advancing to his first quarter-final of the season in Buenos Aires. Schwartzman is pursuing his second ATP World Tour title (2016 Istanbul).
It was still a strong week for Monfils, who saved a match point in the first round against Horacio Zeballos before moving past top seed and World No. 3 Marin Cilic in a rain-delayed second-round encounter. The Frenchman has made at least the quarter-finals at four of the five events he has played this season, with his lone loss before that stage coming against former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open.
Schwarztman will face Chilean Nicolas Jarry, who upset seventh seed Pablo Cuevas 7-5, 6-3 to make the first tour-level semi-final of his career. The 22-year-old advanced to his first quarter-final two weeks ago at the Ecuador Open in Quito, where he lost to eventual champion Roberto Carballes Baena.
“This is a great victory for me,” Jarry said. “I played very solid. I stayed very strong with my head.... I’m very happy with the way that I served this match. It’s better than the other ones, so I hope to continue serving like this.”
Jarry saved all four break points he faced in the match, breaking once per set to move past the 2016 champion. It will be his first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against Schwartzman.
Verdasco Helps Upset No. 2 Seeds In Doubles
Fernando Verdasco remains in contention for both the singles and doubles titles in Rio de Janeiro, partnering compatriot David Marrero to upset second seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-4, 6-4. The lucky losers were pushed to three sets in their first two matches before defeating the Scottish-Brazilian pair to advance to the final.
The Spaniards will compete for the trophy against Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya, who beat Buenos Aires champions Andres Molteni and Horacio Zeballos 6-4, 3-6, 10/7. Mektic/Peya finished runner-up at the recent Diema Xtra Sofia Open (l. to Haase/Middelkoop).
Did You Know?
Jarry had never made a tour-level quarter-final before his last event, the Ecuador Open (l. to Carballes Baena). But the Chilean not only matched that result in Rio de Janeiro, but is now into the semi-finals.