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In Rio de Janeiro, Thiem has eyes set on Federer's No. 3 ranking

In Rio de Janeiro, Thiem has eyes set on Federer's No. 3 ranking

The only Top 10 player in the event, the Austrian kicks off his campaign against Felipe Meligeni Alves.

A trophy and the No. 3 ranking: that's what Dominic Thiem wants this week as he returns to competition for the first time since the Australian Open.

Thiem can climb up from No. 4 to No. 3 by reaching the semifinals in Rio, where he is the top seed and only Top 10 player in the event. 

That's providing Thiem with a little extra motivation this week, as he would move in front of Roger Federer to a career-high in the rankings.

"If I can do something good here, it will help me get to No. 3 in the rankings," Thiem told press prior to the event. 

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The two-time French Open finalist has begun having increasing success on hard courts—he won his first Masters title at Indian Wells, and has reached the final of the ATP Finals and the Australian Open. But he still has no hesitations about naming a favorite surface.

"Coming on clay is like coming home," he was quoted as saying by the ATP Tour. "I like the surface and also really like South America. It's a completely difference atmosphere."

The Austrian, who fell to Novak Djokovic in five sets in the Australian Open final, has also gained confidence from his "great performance" at Melbourne.

"Of course, it was a huge disappointment," he said. "But after some time to reflect, it was a great tournament and start to the season. I hope to keep that good form going."

Thiem withdrew from Buenos Aires following the Australian Open.