Thiem nearly flawless in reaching Rio Open final on clay

Austria's Dominic Thiem serves to Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the semi-finals of the Rio Open tennis tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Dominic Thiem defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-4 to reach the final of the clay-court Rio Open on Saturday.

The Austrian seeks an eighth ATP singles title, five of which have come on his favored clay surface.

”Now I’m feeling really good again about my game,” Thiem said after playing hard-court events.

”On clay, I almost all the time feel great. I knew that this week was going to be very important because I didn’t have much confidence before.”

The No. 8-ranked Thiem will face 18-year-old Casper Ruud of Norway or Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in the final. They played the late semifinal.

If Ruud advances, he would be the youngest to reach an ATP singles final since Kei Nishikori nine years ago.

Thiem, who is 23, called Ruud ”a super talent.”

”I saw him for the first time here in Rio, and I’m quite impressed,” Thiem said. ”And it’s amazing for Norway because they haven’t had a good player for a long time.”

Thiem broke Ramos-Vinolas three straight times to take the first set, and one more time to start the second.

The second-seeded Thiem instantly became the favorite when top-seeded Kei Nishikori was beaten in the first round by Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci. He has not lost a set in four matches in Rio.

Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWade .His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/stephen-wade