Portugal’s Joao Sousa and Frenchman Julien Benneteau marched into the the final of the Malaysian Open yesterday.
Sousa continued his dominant form and ousted Austrian fourth seed Jurgen Melzer 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to reach his first ATP final.
The world No. 77 from Portugal, who upset top seed David Ferrer in straight sets on Friday, kept his cool under tremendous pressure from Melzer, who is the world No. 26, to record a memorable win which sets up the opportunity to be the first ATP winner from his country.
Sousa is to meet fifth seed Benneteau, who defeated second-seeded Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3 in the final today.
Benneteau has vowed to spoil Melzer’s victory party. The Frenchman, who has reached eight finals previously, is still waiting to win his first title.
Sousa is looking for a historic win in the tournament today.
“If I make it, yes, I will be the first from my country to win an ATP title. That will be a big boost for the game in my country,” said Sousa, who took 2 hours and 3 minutes to book his ticket to the final.
“We have a couple of guys with good ranking and if I can win, it will be good for the national team. People will start to know a little bit more about the sport and that’s good for the sport,” he added.
Sousa, who reached the semi-finals in St Petersburg last week, received a special exemption to play in the main draw in Kuala Lumpur as he arrived too late to take his place in the qualifying round.
The move has paid off.
“It has been a good few weeks and I’m hoping for the breakthrough tomorrow. I feel more comfortable on clay courts because I train in Barcelona, but I’ve been having a good run on hard courts so I’m not complaining,” Sousa said.
Meanwhile, Benneteau, who reached his second consecutive Malaysian Open final, said he hopes to end his jinx when he meets Sousa after reaching the final without dropping a set.
When asked about compatriot Cedric Pioline, who lost his first nine finals, Benneteau joke: “Hopefully I won’t have to wait that long!”
“There is no added pressure on me to win the title despite losing the others. I am determined to win here as that has been the goal since day one,” he added.
Top-seeded Tomas Berdych needed nearly three hours to outlast Gilles Simon of France 6-7, 6-2, 7-5 yesterday and reach the final of the Thailand Open.
He is to play Milos Raonic of Canada, who also came from a set down to oust defending champion Richard Gasquet 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Simon saved four set points in the 10th game of the first set and was down 5-3 in the tiebreaker before winning the next four points, clinching it when Berdych sent a forehand into the net.
However, Berdych took a 3-0 in the second and broke his opponent in the 11th game of the decider. He was down 0-40 in the next game before serving out the match to reach his third final of the year.
“With Gilles you know it’s going to be long, as it’s his game,” Berdych said. “He likes to play long rallies and I was trying to deal with that today, the last game was very long, very tough, but my serves helped me to finish it.”
The hard-serving Raonic hit 23 aces in the second semi-final, but struggled with unforced errors in the first set. In the second, he broke Gasquet in the 12th game to level the match and earned another break in the last game of the decider.
It was another tight match between the two, after Raonic wasted a match point before losing to Gasquet in five sets in the fourth round of the US Open.
“He was playing really well,” Raonic said. “He didn’t make a lot of errors. I just said to myself I had to focus on my first serves.”
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