Benneteau beats Wawrinka, faces Sousa in Malaysian Open final

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The final clash of the ATP World Tour 250 tournament in Kuala Lumpur will feature fifth-seeded Julien Benneteau (Player Profile) and Joao Sousa (Player Profile) of Portugal – both players are bidding for their debut ATP trophy. The 31-year-old Frenchman found himself on the losing end of all eight title clashes he has played so far, whilst unseeded Sousa reached his first career final. They have not yet squared off against each other on ATP courts.

33rd-ranked Bennetau took the scalp of second-seeded Stan Wawrinka (Player Profile), defeating him in straight sets. The players exchanged breaks in the opening two games before settling into the match. In the ninth game of the opener the Swiss number two suddenly found himself 0-40 behind – his opponent did not hesitate to restore the one break lead and eventually served out the opener by converting the set point number four.  He was even more confident in the following set as he went on a four straight games run to move 5-2 ahead. Some hope emerged for the New York semi-finalist as he pegged one break back, but then suffered another loss of serve, allowing Bennetau to claim the final ticket by winning 6-4, 6-3. While the Frenchman made it to his second consecutive Malaysian Open final, Wawrinka will be disappointed about converting only one of his six break point opportunities today.

“It’s another chance… I hope it will be a good one,” Benneteau said. “I’m excited but I’m not desperate [to win]. If I stay healthy, I have a few more years in front of me, for sure.”

World no. 77 Sousa started brightly against fourth seed Jurgen Melzer (Player Profile) of Austria by clinching an early break, yet his rival annulled the lead by 3-3. Sousa kept his nerves to get his nose in front again and put away the opening set some minutes later. He failed to create any break point chances in the set number two, whilst Melzer stole his serve in the fourth game before leveling the terms. It looked like the momentum had shifted as the 24-year-old Portugues got broken to love in the opening game of the decider, yet he remained mentally strong and turned the third set around to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

“It’s going to be tough,” Sousa said about the upcoming final match. “I’m going to give 100 per cent tomorrow to win the title here, for sure. [If I win] it will be good not just for me, but for my country, Portugal.”

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