Millennium Estoril Open 2018 – Joao Sousa makes history on home soil

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Portuguese patriotism was all over the court this Sunday in Estoril, as Joao Sousa became the first ever local player to win an ATP tournament in Portugal. An emotional trophy ceremony, where even Joao parents took part and the national anthem was sung two times, showed the importance for the tournament and for Portuguese tennis. Tiafoe acknowledged that he was satisfied for Sousa and the moving celebration that Clube Ténis Estoril, while Sousa admitted that he achieved something really special that he didn’t think it could happen.

Joao Sousa defeats Frances Tiafoe by 6-4 6-4

With no previous matches between the two contenders, the match stated under Sousa’s dominance, who continued the trend of the previous matches in terms of baseline consistency, good mobility and smart tennis, finding spaces to attack Tiafoe without being in a rush. The American lacked of the strong first serves of previous matches (like against Carreño), and lost the first set showing signs of disappointment with his own games, and becoming more and more erratic.

The trend continued in the second set, specially after Sousa got an early break which increased his confidence in the victory. It was not until 5-1 when Tiafoe took out all the pressure and started to play freely, breaking Sousa and putting a big amount of pressure on his shoulders. Finally, with 5-4 on his favour, Joao was able to close the match boosted by some good serves. The Portuguese fell on the floor, and tasted the glory while the crowd, who showed permanent support for their countryman, exploded in pride and delight.

“I know how it feels to be there, because I have lost 7 finals in my career”, told Sousa to Tiafoe during the trophy ceremony. “But you have a great future ahead”, continued, while Tiafoe reverenced with his head. Frances declared that “clay is my best surface”, making a promising appointment for the rest of the European clay season.

While Sousa obtains his third ATP title (after Kuala Lumpur 2013 and Valencia 2015), first on clay, Frances has reached his second ATP final in three months (after his title in Delray Beach earlier this year), achieving also his best career result on clay. Estoril Open shows how important is it for a player to adapt to the tournament and gain confidence: Sousa was 4-6 and 2-5 down in R16 against countryman Pedro Sousa and came back after saving 2 match points, while Tiafoe saved 3 match points on his debut also against a compatriot (Tennys Sandgren) when serving to stay in the match 4-5 down in the third set.

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