World No. 4 Dominic Thiem was well on his way to a comfortable start in Rio de Janeiro, until the injury bug struck to complicate matters on Tuesday. Thiem’s left knee flared up midway through the match, but he carried on to complete a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 victory over wild card Felipe Meligeni Rodrigues Alves.
His future status in the tournament may have been in question, but afterwards, Thiem expressed that the issue had subsided, and expects to be ready to go for his second-round match Thursday against Jaume Munar.
"In the second set I felt a sharp pain in the knee. But it got better and better throughout the match and by the end I did not have any problems anymore," said Thiem in a tweet shared by the tournament.
Competing for the first time since finishing being edged out in five sets by Novak Djokovic for the Australian Open trophy, Thiem raced to a one-set lead before the knee issue surfaced. Up 40-30 in the opening game of the second set, Thiem first showed the discomfort and pulled up gingerly after finishing a point at the net. He had it examined on the change of ends, and later taped when calling for a medical timeout on the following changeover.
To his credit, the 341st-ranked Meligeni Rodrigues Alves raised his level to even the clash. Thiem’s knee impacted his attitude, as he hit 18 unforced errors, including a pair to end the set, but he regrouped nicely. The top seed secured an early 2-0 lead in the decider and pulled away to advance in two hours and four minutes. He finished with a 13 for 17 success rate at net.
Thiem is aiming to win this event for the second time, having triumphed three years ago against Pablo Carreno Busta. A return to the semifinals would see the 26-year-old usurp Roger Federer as the world No. 3, which would mark a new career-high ranking for the three-time major finalist. In two weeks, Thiem will defend the biggest title of his career at Indian Wells.
Seeds Dusan Lajovic and Borna Coric were also victorious in their first-round encounters. Lajovic topped Marco Cecchinato, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1, while Coric won his debut over Juan Ignacio Londero, 7-6 (5), 7-5, to snap a four-match losing streak.