Joao Sousa ended a 29-year dry spell in Portugal on Sunday, beating American Frances Tiafoe 6-4, 6-4 to win his home country’s Estoril Open.
He became the first Portuguese-born player to celebrate an ATP title on home soil.
Sousa broke Tiafoe four times during the match to win his third career ATP title and first in three year. His scampering proved the difference during the match, chasing down big forehands from Tiafoe that were negated by the slow red clay.
Sousa when serving for the first set fought off three Tiafoe set points from 0-40 down. In the second set he ran out to a 4-0 lead before closing it out.
The 29-year-old Sousa collapsed to the court on match point, tears streaming down his face. During the week he survived two three-setters and saved two match points in the second round against countryman Pedro Sousa.
Tiafoe was in his second final of the year after winning his career-first this year at Delray Beach.
“I know how big this is for him. The whole country is behind him,” Tiafoe said afterwards. “He’s felt that since the beginning of the week. There are billboards with him here. I bet he’s wanted to win this event for all the years of his career. It’s huge. He played too good and the crowd was definitely for him. It was tough for me. I couldn’t get my feet wet today. He’s one of the nicest guys on tour too, so I have a lot of respect for him.
“I didn’t feel great today. I just got outplayed. I left a lot of balls short and didn’t play near as well as I was playing this week. He took advantage and was able to play how he wanted to. It was tough. I couldn’t get anything going.”
The 20-year-old American fell to 1-1 in career finals, both this year.
Sousa improved to 3-7 in career finals. Both players entered the event ranked in the 60s on the ATP rankings, and Sousa is projected to move back into the Top 50.
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