Ruud Ousts De Minaur In Braga, Will Play For Title
For the second straight week, a final in Portugal will feature a #NextGenATP star against a home hope named Sousa.
Last week, it was Joao Sousa prevailing over Frances Tiafoe at the ATP World Tour stop in Estoril. And on Sunday, Lisbon native Pedro Sousa will battle Casper Ruud at the inaugural Braga Open. A first ATP Challenger Tour title of the year will be on the line, as Ruud and Sousa meet for the €43,000 clay-court crown.
Ruud is bidding to become the first teenage winner on the Challenger circuit this year and lift the second trophy of his young career. He survived a tricky half of the draw without dropping a set, ousting fellow #NextGenATP Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-2 in Saturday's semis. Another teen - Felix Auger-Aliassime - also featured in their section.
"The result looks easier than it was and how the match went," said Ruud following Saturday's victory. "There were some good rallies and I was taking advantage of playing with balls that moved heavier through the court. There was also a lot of wind, which is better for me than him. He plays flat and goes for big shots. A lot of things were on my side today and I was a bit lucky at times, but I used my weapons when I had to and I was just ready to play for every point. In the end, it was a comfortable win for me.
"Whenever you play a match on a Sunday, it means you are doing well. Of course you want to go for one more and give it everything you have, but it's been a great week. I haven't dropped a set yet and I'm feeling confident and ready for tomorrow.
"I saw Pedro almost beat Joao Sousa last week in Estoril. I watched a little of that, so I know he's a good player. The crowd will be against me I know that. I will just play with good fighting spirit and I hope it will take me far. As always I will do my best and hopefully he will feel more pressure than me."
Ruud is looking to add a second Challenger title to his resume, having previously emerged with the trophy in Sevilla, Spain two years ago. At the age of 17 years, eight months, he became the fourth-youngest player to win a title in his ATP Challenger Tour debut.
Now, the Norwegian teen is rounding into form on his preferred surface, reaching his second Challenger final in less than a month. Also the runner-up in Francavilla al Mare, Italy, he is projected to return to the Top 150 of the ATP Rankings with a win on Sunday.
Seeking to make his debut at the Next Gen ATP Finals in November, Ruud will also climb two spots to eighth in the ATP Race To Milan with a victory.
On the other side of the net, Sousa is appearing in his first final of the year after enjoying a three-title campaign in 2017. The fourth seed, who reached a career-high of No. 102 last year, advanced to the final after top seed Gastao Elias retired down 0-6 on Saturday due to a right shoulder injury.
"I knew he (Gastão) had shoulder pains a few days ago," said Sousa. "In the warm-up I saw that he wasn't serving with the usual strength but I didn't know the state he was in. During the match I realised that he was not in the best of conditions and I was trying to play as many balls as possible. Unfortunately he had to retire.
"These matches are the reason why I practise every day and I hope to be well tomorrow and manage to win another tournament. I've practised with Casper a few times in Tunisia (at the Tunis Open). He's a young player, full of potential, who I'm sure will be a great player in the future. I will try to counter his weapons, make a good match to try to win."
You can watch a free live stream below of the Braga final, beginning at 11:00am BST/6:00am EST