Sousa Defeats Benneteau To Claim Maiden Title
Sousa makes Portuguese history in Kuala Lumpur.
World No. 77 Joao Sousa claimed his maiden ATP World Tour title on Sunday at the Malaysian Open, defeating fifth seed Julien Benneteau 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in Kuala Lumpur.
The 24-year-old saved six of eight break points during the match which lasted two hours and 18 minutes. One of those was on match point, with Sousa serving at 30-40, trailing 2-6, 4-5.
"I just gave my best, it was a tough shot there, I just went for it and it went it... Tennis is like this, if you don't go for it, you'll never make it, so I just went for it," said Sousa. "We both played a great match... He had a lot of chances to win."
Sousa became the first player from Portugal to win an ATP World Tour final, going one step better than Frederico Gil who lost to Albert Montanes in Oeiras, Portugal in May 2010. He also became the seventh first-time winner on the ATP World Tour this season, with his win over France's Benneteau in the pair's first meeting.
"I'm so tired mentally and physically but I just feel amazing, it's just a dream come true, winning my first title here in Malaysia," said Sousa. "I'm really happy to win this title... I hope this helps [my] confidence and to try and do better things."
The Portuguese No. 1 said he has learned to fight, and to find solutions, having moved to Barcelona to pursue tennis without his parents when he was a kid. "I just learned to... go for my dreams," he said. "I'm very happy with this week."
Sousa produced the best win of his career by toppling top seed David Ferrer in the quarter-finals, before defeating fourth seed Jurgen Melzer in the semi-finals. The right-hander leapt to a career-high No. 77 in the Emirates ATP Rankings this week after reaching his first ATP World Tour semi-final in St. Petersburg last week (l. to Garcia-Lopez).
It was the first final of the year between two players battling to win their first ATP World Tour title. Sousa became the 12th unseeded winner this season, with the last being Ivo Karlovic, who won in Bogota in July.
The 31-year-old Benneteau's loss takes his record in ATP World Tour finals to 0-9.
"I tried everything today... I played very well, particularly I was very aggressive and I didn't let him play for two sets almost," said the Frenchman. "At 5-4, I had match point and I played the point perfectly... He made the passing shot down the line, with his forehand."
"I took my chance, it didn't pay off and it's hard, it's hard, it's very hard. But it's sport," said the disappointed Benneteau. "It's tough because I was leading the match, but this is tennis. You have to win some key points."