Thiem To Face Sousa In Umag Final
Austrian takes out top seed Monfils while unseeded Portuguese downs Bautista Agut
Joao Sousa will be the first Portuguese player to play for the title at the Kozum Croatia Open Umag after defeating second seed Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 on Saturday. Sousa, ranked No. 51 on the Emirates ATP Rankings, came out on top after two hours and 21 minutes.
Sousa applied early pressure on his Spanish opponent, obtaining eight break points in the first set. However, Bautista Agut saved them all and came away with the opening set by breaking Sousa in the final game.
“This is tennis. I had many break points. I didn’t take them. He had one. He took it. I just tried to forget about it at the end of the set and focus on my game,” said Sousa. From then on, Sousa saved five consecutive break points and broke his opponent four times to take the match.
“I am really happy with the way I played,” Sousa added. “I felt good physically on the court today. The crowd supported me which is nice considering I didn’t get much support last night. I hope I will get the same support tomorrow.”
Monfils started the match in fine form, breaking Thiem twice and taking the first set in 22 minutes. In the opening stanza, the Frenchman won 92 per cent of first serve points and allowed his Austrian opponent no break chances.
Thiem gained the upper hand in set two, saving a break point at 1-1 before breaking his opponent’s service in the following game. In the deciding set, Monfils dug himself out of two 0/40 holes, but was broken three times thereafter.
“Gael played unbelievable in the first set,” said Thiem. “When he plays like that, there isn’t much you can do. I was lucky to get the break early in the second set and then the match started to shift in my favour. The conditions are really tough. You sweat a lot. I was also tired in the third set but I am happy as I didn’t show it.”
Heading into the final, Thiem holds a 2-0 lead in the FedEx ATP Head2Head matchup against Sousa thanks to wins in Marseille (2015) and at the Australian Open (2014). However, the two have never played on clay at the tour-level.
“It is pretty special to be in the final here,” added Thiem. “I played so many matches in juniors in Umag. I played on that center court with 2 people in the stands hoping to make it one day to the pros. It will definitely be special for me tomorrow.”