Home favourite Sousa lands Estoril crown

Joao Sousa of Portugal, pictured in March 2018, needed to call upon his reserves to claim the opening set by saving three break points in the final game
AFP

Estoril (Portugal) (AFP) – Portugal’s Joao Sousa had to battle at the end before becoming the first home player to win the Estoril Open with a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of American Frances Tiafoe on Sunday.

The 29-year-old Sousa, ranked 68th in the world, needed to call upon his reserves to claim the opening set by saving three break points in the final game.

Serving for victory at 5-2 in the second, the Portuguese was broken as Tiafoe briefly delayed the festivities.

But the local hero came good two games later as he clinched a third career title, a feat which quickly got the mainly Portuguese crowd into the mood for a mass sing-along chorus of celebration.

Sousa, playing in his 10th final, also won Valencia in 2015 and at Kuala Lumpur five years ago. 

Tiafoe, 20, was thwarted in his bid to collect a second career title after making his trophy breakthrough in February at Delray Beach, Florida. 

The world number 64 fell short in the end as he failed to generate the momentum which had kept him in clay contention all week.

Sousa improved to 18-10 this season after a poor start which he turned around with consistent results starting in March.

Sousa made a fast start as he produced a break of Tiafoe in the third game of the opener to take a 2-1 lead which he held throughout as the set progressed on level-pegging.

But NextGen player Tiafoe suddenly struck, putting the Portuguese hope into a hole and facing three break points in the 10th game of the set.

Sousa calmly saved all three, then earned a set point before closing it out by winning his fifth straight point to take the lead 6-4 after 40 minutes.

Sousa, sensing his chances, broke to start the second set, putting his less experienced opponent on the back foot. 

It quickly went to 2-0 as Tiafoe’s mistakes mounted, with the youngster committing his fourth double-fault to lose the second game.

The American fell further behind before finally holding serve for 1-4 and launching a spirited rally, although one that came too late. 

Sousa reached the final after he put out Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas, a Barcelona finalist last weekend against Rafael Nadal. 

Tiafoe beat holder and second seed Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain in the other semi-final.

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