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Saturday September 28, 2013 MYT 9:05:00 PM
Saturday September 28, 2013 MYT 9:07:43 PM
by lim teik huat
Joao Sousa smashes his racquet during the Malaysian Open semi-final match against Jurgen Melzer of Austria. Sousa won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
KUALA LUMPUR: Portugal’s Joao Sousa and fifth seed Julien Benneteau of France will slug it out for their maiden ATP World Tour title at the Malaysian Open tennis championships at Putra Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
Sousa continued his gallant run to become the first player from Portugal to reach an ATP World Tour final since 2010 by overcoming fourth seed Jurgen Melzer of Austria 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours and three minutes.
The last player from his nation to reach a final was Frederico Gil in Oeiras, Portugal, in May 2010.
Benneteau, ranked 31st in the world, knocked out second seed Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland 6-4, 6-3 in the other semi-final, which lasted 78 minutes.
Benneteau improved his head-to-head record over the Swiss number two and this year’s US Open semi-finalist to 2-1 to advance to his second ATP World Tour final since February.
The 31-year-old Frenchman reached the ATP World Tour final in Rotterdam but lost to Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.
But the performance of the day came from Sousa, who only got into the tournament with a special exemption after reaching his first ATP World Tour semi-final in St Petersburg last week.
Sousa kept his cool under tremendous pressure from Melzer, who is the world No. 26 and the 24-year-old now has a chance to claim a historic win for his country.
Sousa earned his first win over a world top five player by defeating top seed David Ferrer of Spain in the quarter-finals on Friday.
“If I make it, I will be the first Portuguese to win a tour title. It will be very good not only for me but also for my country. We have a few active professionals and if I win, it will encourage more people in Portugal to recognise the sport and also learn about our successes.
“I feel great reaching the final here. I did not play as well as I did in the quarter-finals but I managed to pull through and win crucial points over Melzer.
“I think the Malaysian Open will be my favourite tournament if I win tomorrow,” said the beaming Sousa, who however, said his mission is not over yet.
“It’s going to be tough ... I’m going to give 100% to win the title for sure,” added Sousa, whose success in Malaysia forced him to withdraw from next week’s China Open in Beijing, where he was due to play in the qualifying draw.
Benneteau said he did not expect a quick victory over world number 10 Wawrinka.
“I always prepare for a tough match. The score looks pretty easy but when you are on court, you have to be careful of everything and think about your game and nothing else.
“I am happy to win in two sets. It’s good that I give myself another chance and I hope it will be good this time.
“I want to win but I am not desperate. I just have to be ready to play a good match,” said Benneteau.
Tags / Keywords:
tennis, Malaysian Open, Joao Sousa, Julien Benneteau, Jurgen Melzer, Stanislas Wawrinka
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