After Friday night rain forced Gianluca Mager to sleep on a 7-6(4), 2-1 lead against Dominic Thiem at the Rio Open presented by Claro, the World No. 128 held his nerve on Saturday to complete a 7-6(4), 7-5 victory against the top seed.
Upon the resumption of play, the Italian qualifier held his opening three service games to serve for a place in his first ATP Tour semi-final at 5-4. Despite dropping serve, Mager moved up the court in the next game and landed back-to-back winners to earn a second opportunity to serve for the match. On his first match point, Mager fired an ace out wide to complete the win after one hour and 55 minutes.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Mager. “For me, it was a dream only to play with him. Now that I beat him, for me, it is a dream. He is a great, unbelievable player… I am very emotional.”
In his first event since reaching the Australian Open final last month, Thiem was aiming to win his second title in Rio de Janeiro. The World No. 4 drops to 12-4 at the ATP 500 event.
Mager has won 10 consecutive sets from qualifying to reach the last four. The 25-year-old, who lifted three ATP Challenger Tour trophies last year, also beat Buenos Aires champion Casper Ruud in the first round. Mager will face lucky loser Attila Balazs of Hungary for a place in the championship match.
“It is a big opportunity,” said Mager. “I [will] do my best. I [will] fight every point and we will see.”
Trailing Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez 2-6, 2-2 before the rain hit on Friday, Balazs raised his level on Saturday to complete a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory after two hours and 28 minutes. The 31-year-old broke serve on six occasions throughout the match to reach his third ATP Tour semi-final.
Mager and Balazs will be meeting for the second time at this year’s event. In the second qualifying round, Mager dropped just two games to overcome Balazs 6-0, 6-2 and book his spot in the main draw. Balazs later received a place in the main draw as a lucky loser.