Kuala Lumpur final preview and pick: Benneteau vs. Sousa

Julien Benneteau is–once again–one win away from his first career ATP title. Standing in his way on Sunday in the Kuala Lumpur final is Joao Sousa. Hasan Murad previews the match.

The final of the Malaysian Open presents golden opportunities for both Julien Benneteau and Joao Sousa and it is the first ATP tournament of the year in which two finalists have a chance to win a first-ever ATP title.

Sousa can etch his name in the history books as he attempts to become the first-ever Portuguese player to win an ATP event. The 24-year-old’s gallant run this week has made him the hottest player outside the Top 50 after the U.S .Open. Already placed 54th in the ATP race for 2013, a victory in Sunday’s final will catapult him to 43rd position.

Benneteau, meanwhile, is hoping to bag his maiden ATP title in his ninth final. He has improved his performance as the tournament has progressed. The world No. 33 is a solid returner of serve and the numbers he has posted in his last match corroborate the claim. He won an impressive 49 percent of return points against Stanislas Wawrinka and looks prepared to dominate Sousa’s relatively weak serve.

Both players are playing solid from the baseline, so the final is bound to feature plenty of  quality baseline rallies. While Benneteau’s strength from the baseline is unquestionably his backhand, it is the forehand that has done wonders for Sousa in his amazing wins. It remains to be seen whether Sousa’s burgeoning confidence can negate the advantage Benneteau’s experience will grant him. As the veteran, Benneteau is more likely to seize the tactical advantage, assert his authority in the pivotal moments, and narrowly win his first head-to-head meeting with Sousa.

Pick: Benneteau in 3

34 Comments on Kuala Lumpur final preview and pick: Benneteau vs. Sousa

  1. The enthusiasm of Sousa finally won over the experience of Benny.

    Riveting stuff from both men but that has to be the most heartbreaking loss of all time for poor Julian.

    He must be wondering if he’ll ever have another chance like that.

  2. The only sign of nerves from Sousa was his poor first serve percentage in the lst set.

    He upped the level dramatically in the 2nd set and then profited when Benny tightened up.

    Benny not surprisingly looked heartbroken during the presentation.

  3. RT @enricomariariva: “3 more finals and Benneteau will have a comfortable 12 plates set for his dinner guests”

  4. ed251137 “The enthusiasm of Sousa finally won over the experience of Benny.”

    Well put ! Sousa has played with so much passion.

  5. Happy for Sousa, a fellow portuguese speaker 🙂
    But man, I’m so devasted for Benny…imagine to have a 0:9 record in finals and lose the last one for a guy who was at his first ATP final. I can’t imagine what he’s feeling right now, what a great chance he missed…hope he can win one title before retiring, he deserves it.
    I’m now super excited about Beijing..heard that Rafa will play Tuesday..can’t wait!!!

  6. I am nervous. If Rafa does well here, he is probably going to win WTF too. and go on to a long stretch of weeks at no. 1. WTF is important for the reason that it provides a cushion of ranking points that last the whole of the next year dropping off only at the very end. Djokovic would have lost his no. 1 ranking long before this but for his fantastic performance during last autumn accumulating 3000 points.
    If Rafa had won Monte Carlo as he had been doing in the past , he would have been no. 1 after the USO and would have had at least 4 additional weeks at no. 1
    Rafa will do well if his knees are not giving him trouble, Please Rafa’s knees, let Rafa be competitive..

  7. Interesting week ahead.

    China with the stronger draw over Japan with the world Top 2 and 6 of the Top 10 with Japan only having Delpo (No. 7) and Tsonga (No. 8).

    In China, I like Rafa’s draw. Kohls the biggest threat before the final for him. Nole should reach the final without too much difficulty. Wawa lurks in the 3rd round for him but Nole will be better rested and Wawa is feeling the stress of trying to pass Roger and make the WTFs. Would have preferred Pospisil to have played in Japan with its softer draw. Instead he has to face a slumping but experfienced Ferru in the 1st round! Tough ask for the rising player. If he got past Ferru, he has a good shot against Bennetteau and then could face Gasquet which would be an interesting match.

    In Japan, good opportunity for Tsonga in his late season push but he has a tough draw facing LaMonf in the 1st round followed potentially by Dodig, Simon and Raonic before the finals. Frankly, I think Monfils will beat him. In contrast, Delpo has a relatively easy path to the finals with a cold but home favourite Kei Nishikori as the highest seed in Delpo’s half. If Raonic caan keep his recent form going, I like his chances to make the finals.

    • Interesting that China Open now out-draws Japan. A few years ago when Rafa won Japan Open, a reporter made the comment that players’ agents were always happy when their client did well in Japan. It’s probably because of the potential endorsements from Japanese companies. How the economic power has shifted!

      Just like when I traveled overseas before, merchants always greeted me in Japanese. A few months ago when I traveled around Italy, all the clerks and even guys on the street greeted me in Chinese because Chinese tourists are now the biggest source of tourists in the world.

  8. It is frustrating that the tennis channel will only start televising Beijing in the round of 16.

    I do think that Kohls is a tough opponent for a second match. Rafa has had these kinds of tough tests before and ultimately prevails. I already said that should Rafa get by Kohls, then he will get to the final.

    I just find the rankings points confusing. I keep reading different scenarios in which Rafa will become #1. But at this point I am not clear about it. I read somewhere that if Rafa makes the semis, then he will be #1. Then I read that he has to get to the final. It’s all a bit maddening.

    I don’t know about Stan and Djoker. If Stan wants to move up and be a contender, then this is the kind of pressure he will have to be able to deal with on a regular basis. If he plays the way he did at the USO, then it could be another dogfight. I would think that this being a best two out of three might give Stan an even better chance.

    I just watched the final with Benny and Sousa. It was a good match and Benny had his chances late in the third set. But Sousa kept it together. I am happy for Sousa, but feel bad for Benny. What does he have to do to get to a final and win?

    I loved hearing the great Freddie Mercury singing in that video!

    • Was that the actual music played during the presentation? If so I doubt Benny will appreciate the choice of song – that’s if he ever watches a re-run of the presentation which in the circumstances is rather unlikely.

      He struggled to retain his composure but his face said it all.

    • NNY: I saw bits and pieces of the Kohlbi-Montanes match – when he was 2-4 down in the final set TB I was thinking of you and planning to sending you the message you could breath more easily now. Then Kohlbi pulled himself together, started getting lst serves in (including as I recall a couple of aces) et voilà the match was his. But he struck me as being rather weary and not as sharp as usual.

      BTW: the other day you got huffy when I queried why people were nervous at the prospect of Rafa meeting Kohlbi. It reminded me of a conversation way back when you took umbrage because I told you to stop stressing. It’s because I know how much you worry before matches I suggested you focussed on their H2H rather than thinking about ‘what if’.

      It was not an order my dear. Stress away all you want if that’s your way of coping with the tension before matches. I’m more of a ‘I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’ kind of person ?

      • ed,

        First, I am sorry that you thought I was being huffy when I responded. The problem with writing words on a forum is that you don’t hear the person’s voice and the inflection. So the words can sometimes come off in the wrong way. All I can say is that I did not take your comment to be offensive. I was just trying to respond matter of factly but it didn’t come out that way.

        I never take umbrage at you. We have known each other for too long. I like and respect you and always will. Sometimes I might get impatient or just disagree, but there is no question as to my affection and admiration for you. I hope you know that. Maybe including a smiley at times would help to let you know that it’s not meant in an unkind way.

        Believe me, I am not stressing about Rafa meeting Kohls. However, I really do appreciate your analysis and take on his first match. We will see if he comes out playing his best, as players seem to do against Rafa. Right now I am feeling a bit mellow because it’s been such a great year. I do think that Rafa will get the #1 ranking. I don’t know if it will be at Beijing or Shanghai or wherever. But I do think it will happen.

        Considering the nonsense that is going on in the states right now with our political situation, there are other things that are really stressing me. It’s not always about tennis. 🙂

        I will try to do a better job of conveying my thoughts. I know that you don’t get angry, but I don’t want you to think that I am upset. I do understand where you are coming from. It’s from a good place!

  9. NNY: You’ve put your finger on the problem. One can’t always ‘hear’ the inflection in the voice. i guess that’s why the system of emoticons was invented. Maybe I should say ‘please’ more often instead of using the imperative tense!!

    Also after the years of harassment I do understand why you are sometimes a bit jumpy. But as we were discussing the other day, we are all grown ups, and here of all places there is no need for any of us to have to pussy-foot around each other. I know full well you don’t take my comments to heart.

    As you so rightly say, with all that is going on in the world, somebody winning or losing a tennis match is neither here nor there in the scheme of things.

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