Sousa adds to Benneteau's finals heartbreak

Julien Benneteau comes within one point of capturing his long-awaited first career ATP title on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur. Instead, it is Joao Sousa who finds the winner’s circle for the first time.

Joao Sousa saved one championship point before upsetting Julien Benneteau 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the final of the Malaysian Open on Sunday afternoon. Sousa, who reached the semifinals last week in St. Petersburg just to get a special exemption into Kuala Lumpur, triumphed after two hours and 18 minutes.

Playing in his ninth career ATP final, Benneteau came out firing. The Frenchman did not face a break point in the first set and used his second break to close it out in style at 5-2. He soon brought up match point thanks to a perfect backhand return with Sousa serving at 4-4, 30-30. Benneteau hit a stellar return and approach shot with his first-ever title within reach, but Sousa answered with a stunning forehand pass.

That proved to be the turning point of the match. Sousa held serve four points later then broke Benneteau at 5-5 before forcing a decider with a hold of serve. The on-fire Portuguese player broke again for 1-0 in the third and he made it stand up by saving all four of the break points he faced.

“I just gave my best,” Sousa said of the shot down match point. “It was a tough shot there. I just went for it. Tennis is like this; if you don’t go for it, you’ll never make it–so I just went for it…. We both played a great match. 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.”

“I tried everything today,” Benneteau assured. “I played very well, particularly I was very aggressive and I didn’t let him play for two sets almost. At 5-4, I had match point and I played the point perfectly. He made the passing shot down the line.

“I took my chance. It didn’t pay off and it’s hard, it’s hard, it’s very hard. But it’s sport. It’s tough because I was leading the match, but this is tennis. You have to win some key points.”

1 Comment on Sousa adds to Benneteau's finals heartbreak

  1. The irony was Benny was playing better tennis for 90% of the time.

    Ricky: Could it be he won the first set too easily with the result he lost some of his intensity in the 2nd? For sure, losing the set after holding match point must have got to him big time and no doubt contributed to him dropping serve in the first game of the 3rd.

    All his previous losses in a final were to experienced and usually higher ranked players.
    I hope losing a ninth final, to a player who was barely on the radar to boot, does not completely crush his spirit.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Sousa fares in the coming months and whether he can stay level headed in spite of the media hyperbole which greeted his first ATP title.

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