In his second consecutive Malaysian Open final in Kuala Lumpur fifth seed Julien Benneteau (Player Info) of France squared off against Joao Sousa (Player Info) who threw out top seed David Ferrer in the quarter-finals and was playing his first ATP title match today. Everything was going according to the 31-year-old Frenchman’s plans in the opener as he broke the unseeded Portuguese player to love two times in a row to acquire a one set advantage after half an hour of hard court tennis.
He maintained high level of play in the second set where he came close to breaking Sousa in the sixth game, yet the latter replied with a service winner before eventually making it 3-3. Benneteau was holding confidently at that point, whilst the 77th-ranked Portuguese struggled quite a lot on his serve, so it was no surprise to see the Frenchman generate a championship point at 5-4 after executing a fine backhand return. He had his rival cornered in the follow-up rally, yet Sousa bailed himself out with a fantastic down-the-line winner to force a deuce. Unlucky Benneteau’s game fell apart after that moment, allowing his inspired opponent to level the terms rather easily and continue his run up to 2-0 in the decider.
Lively Sousa kept prolonging the World no. 33 Frenchman’s agony as he obtained a double break point at 3-1, yet this time Benneteau escaped the danger by producing a couple of winners before wrapping up the game. He finally found some foothold and worked hard to earn himself three opportunities to break back in a ten-minute-long eighth game, but he squandered them all, giving the 24-year-old Portuguese a chance to serve for the championship a few minutes later. The second match point did the trick for Sousa who thus completed his spirited comeback to lift a debut ATP trophy with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 triumph. He became the first Portuguese player to win an ATP World Tour final. On the other hand, Benneteau will be largely disappointed about letting the maiden career title slip out of his hands in the closing stages of the second set.