Estoril Open 2018: João Sousa becomes first ever Portuguese champion
Manuel Traquete for Tennis Atlantic
It was a historic day for Portuguese tennis with João Sousa becoming the first Portuguese player to ever win Portugal’s one and only ATP event, after Frederico Gil’s narrow miss back in 2010. This was Sousa’s 3rd ATP title In 10 finals, first in 2018.
It was pretty much a Davis Cup atmosphere in Center Court, with a capacity crowd rowdily supporting Sousa and spurring him on to the biggest achievement of his career thus far. Tiafoe had been on fire in the last couple of days but he wasn’t even close to replicate that level in the final, perhaps a bit intimidated by the extremely pro-Sousa atmosphere on the court.
Sousa broke in the second Tiafoe service game, and although he was broken back he was able to break and then serve out the set despite finding himself in a 0-40 hole. After losing the first set, Tiafoe clearly lose confidence for a bit, frustrated by how many errors he was committing and how many balls Sousa was forcing him to hit in a lot of rallies. Tiafoe was still able to rally back from a double break down in the second and force Sousa to serve it out, but the truth is he could never find the right balance between aggression and consistency and Sousa’s more consistent and metronomic game proved to be too strong for Tiafoe in his first ever clay final.
For Sousa, winning in Portugal has been the fulfillment of a long-held dream. Given how unlikely it is that he wins any bigger tournament, this title will most likely end up being the moment that will forever define Sousa’s career. He could hardly contain his emotion after winning, as shown by his winner’s speech and press conference, it was clear just how much this means to him. Tiafoe was magnanimous in defeat, congratulating Sousa for his victory on home soil and vowing to return to Estoril next year.