Thiem: 'Clay Is Like Coming Home'
Thiem is the top seed this week at the ATP 500 clay-court event in Rio de Janeiro and will start against local wild card Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves. The 2017 champion (d. Carreno Busta) is participating in the Latin Swing for the fifth consecutive year and proved that playing on clay won’t disturb his preparation for hard-court ATP Masters 1000 events next month in Indian Wells and Miami.
“For me, it’s no problem to [play] on clay for one or two weeks and then switch back to hard courts. Coming on clay is like coming home,” Thiem said. “I like the surface and also really like South America. It’s a completely different atmosphere… I’ve had great experiences, won here, won Buenos Aires twice, so it’s very easy for me to come back here.“
The Austrian, No. 4 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, is competing in his first event since finishing runner-up earlier this month at the Australian Open (l. to Djokovic). Although Thiem understandably experienced heartbreak after his five-set defeat in Melbourne, he’s moved forward and is taking the positives from reaching his first hard-court Grand Slam final.
“I feel great about the performance in Melbourne. It was a hell of a two weeks, beating three Top 10 guys and then losing to Novak Djokovic 6-4 in the fifth,” Thiem said. "Of course, it was a huge disappointment… But after some time to reflect, it was a great tournament and start to the season. I hope to keep that good form going."
Main draw action in Rio de Janeiro begins on Monday.