In the All-American final at the 2019 Eastbourne International, Taylor Fritz beat his compatriot Sam Querrey straight sets 6-3 6-4 to claim his first ATP title in his career.
Speaking after his press conference, Fritz said: “It’s, like, it’s unbelievable. The feeling still hasn’t fully set in. I have wanted to win a title for so long, ever since making the final in Memphis when I was so young. So it’s been — you know, I have been thinking about it for a long time. I’m so happy I finally got it.”
Fritz was in control throughout the whole match and Querrey could not find any rhythm to play the match on his own terms. Whenever there was a opportunity for Querrey to break back and even the match, Fritz looked focus and seemed to always come up with a first serve to extend his lead.
I asked Fritz in the press conference whether he agreed with this idea and he commented: “Yeah, like I just said, I feel like I can always come up with my best in the big moments, or if I’m not playing my best, I can just kind of find a way to tough it out and come through in those moments. It’s one of the biggest strengths that I have. Yeah, it’s just coming up with what I need when I need it.”
He also credited his coaching team composed of Paul Annacone and David Nainkin that helped him reach this point of his career.
“One thing we have all worked on as a team so much is working on my net game and coming into net more, because with the big groundstrokes, you get a lot of, you know, balls that you can finish the point at the net. So it’s been a long process trying to work on that.
“We are still working on it. We have worked a lot on my serve consistency, because one thing that’s been a problem about me winning a title or going deep is I’ll serve good, serve good, serve good, and then just have one day where I can’t put a serve in the court. We have worked a lot on that. My serve’s improved so much.”
“That’s one thing I stress to them as a player, telling the coach, is I want to improve, you know, where I’m not that good but I also want to strengthen my best shots so they become even more dominant, and so that’s something we have all worked on. And also tons of work in the gym, getting stronger, getting faster. Yeah, it’s all showing.”
Fritz will have little time to celebrate, as he will have to face former Wimbledon finalist, Tomas Berdych, in the first round at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, on the women’s side, the second seed Karolina Pliskova defeated the defending Wimbledon champion, Angelique Kerber comfortably in straight sets 6-1 6-4 to claim her second Eastbourne International title.
Interview with Bethanie Mattek-Sands from Eastbourne 2019 Eric Han for Tennis Atlantic
I had the pleasure of talking to former world no.1 in doubles, five time Grand Slam doubles champion, and Olympic mixed doubles gold medalist, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, after her semifinals doubles victory with her partner Kirsten Flipkens. The video and the transcript of the interview is below.
Q: First tournament back since the Australian Open, and now you’re in final. Congratulations. How do you feel?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: It feels really good. I mean, for me I’ve been enjoying each match. Having a surgery, going through the rehab. I think you learn to appreciate the moment a little bit. And I’ve been having a blast with Flipkens, it was a last minute partnership. And she’s a good a friend off the court. I mean, she won last week on grass, so I felt I picked up a partner that was on good momentum. The things she comes up with that net is super impressive, so I really enjoyed playing with Kirsten out there.
Q: What did you think of the match? When you were down 5-8 in the super tiebreak, what did you say to Kirsten or what did Kirsten say to you to keep motivating each other?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: In all honesty, I’m going to be honest. On the 10 point tiebreakers, I lose track of score a lot. I’m relying on someone to tell me to I need to switch sides. It’s one thing to play the tiebreak to seven, but to play it to ten, I feel like it keeps going. So I’m like next point, alright next point, you’re serving, I’m serving, we’re returning, here’s the play.
So, I feel like, even though I wasn’t quite aware of the score, we had a good game plan. Flippers (Flipkens) is a positive person anyway, so I feel like we both have good energy out there and that’s kind of the key whether you’re up or down and its what win matches and we were able to close it out.
Q: You’ve played both singles and doubles in your career what would you say are the differences? What do you have to adjust when you have to play singles and doubles?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: You definitely adjust your targets. I just think they are two different game plans. I mean, you do have some players that play singles and very good doubles players. Then you have some singles players, that don’t play a lot of doubles. I think there’s a big aspect of communication, a big aspect of a different strategy, and I don’t even like to kind of compare them. I feel when I’m getting ready for a doubles match, it’s a different strategy when I’m getting ready for singles. It’s still a little bit different, I think it’s fun to have your partner out there, someone to talk to. Singles, you’re out there by yourself and it’s a different game. And for right now, I’m playing doubles and mixed doubles at Wimbledon, double here. So I get to have someone to talk to, have my partner. So I’m just really enjoying it,
Q: Ash Barty, who you’ve played against in singles and doubles a few times. She won her maiden Grand Slam in Paris last month. Were you surprised that her first singles Grand Slam was on clay, rather than on Wimbledon as people thought that’s her preferred surface?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: No, I don’t think so. I feel like she has actually won Rome doubles last year. And I think she won it again it this year. She’s an all court player, and I think right now if you have an all-court game, you can play on any surface. You can transition from clay, to hard, to grass. She mixes in that slice really well and comes to the net. And I feel like you can come to the net on all surfaces. And that’s going to be a good game plan. I don’t see her changing it up for grass. She’s an exciting player to watch, and I’ll be rooting for her.
Q: Speaking about Ash, she took time away from tennis to play cricket because she felt too much pressure, tension. Considering how long a tennis season is, nearly 11 months, do you think it is more beneficial for players to take mental health breaks?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: You know what, I gotta give her a lot of credit for doing that. Because she came out of juniors, and she was a highly touted junior. I played her actually, one of her first tournaments, in Hobart I think a long time ago. And she was a great junior player. And for her to say, its too much pressure, I’m not enjoying it. Because Ash is one of these players, she really enjoys going out there, she plays smooth, she plays her game, she talks about playing her brand of tennis. And I really give her a lot of credit for taking that break. And I don’t think its the worst thing. For me, my breaks have come from injuries. I’ve been out for some months at times and it wasn’t necessarily my choice. I think it’s not only good for the body, but also for the mind, tennis is a game and it is a long season, so I think it’s important to kind of to take your breaks when you can and enjoy it. I pick and choose the tournaments I want to play, but I give myself weeks off and days off. After a long swing of tournaments, I’ll take a couple of days to enjoy somewhere around the world. Otherwise, it’s just playing, trains, automobiles, courts, practice, and it’s just kind of this vicious cycle till November. So I think that’s helped me a lot, but again, I’ve taken some time off for my injuries and enjoyed my life off the court, so I think balance is important- really really important.
Q: Do you have any examples in your own career that you should’ve felt I could’ve taken a mental health break? Because it was too much for me, the media attention or whatever. Do you have any examples?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: For me, like I said, I took some time off around my injuries. And you know, it’s easy to say I was forced to take some time off. But I think I decided to rather than feel pressured to come back quick, I really enjoyed my time at home. I enjoyed my time with friends, and I think that’s the biggest shift of my career. If you would’ve talked to me when I was younger, I would’ve said I maybe burned out myself a little and didn’t enjoy tennis. And thinking back, it makes me a little sad, because tennis is a fun game, and even though there is pressure, and that’s why you have a team around you. And that’s why you have a normal life outside of tennis. And when I see that players that kind of have some good balance, they are generally the ones that play longer, they play the season, they can deal with losing early, and then those wins because week to week, you could be at a high, and next week you lose first round four days later! So I think it’s important to have a good balance and I feel like I’ve been able to do that, within my schedule.
Q: Yesterday, it was announced the Fed Cup would change its format to the Davis Cup. I spoke with Simona Halep yesterday about it in the press conference, she said she would possibly boycott it. Because she won’t be able to feel the atmosphere at home. What do you think?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: You know what? It’s a topic we’ve talked about a lot over the last few years. We needed to find a way that the Fed Cup could fit in our schedule as well. The final was played in November, then we had two other weeks. It was tough to add more weeks onto the player’s schedules. So we’re gonna continue the talks right now. I’m actually on the player’s council, so we’re gonna talk to the ITF, the Fed Cup, and kind of come up with a win-win scenario and see what we can do about it. I think it’s very important for everyone to represent their country. I will say that, we come to tournaments like Eastbourne, it says Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and it says USA. We’re all really proud of our countries, whether we’re playing Fed Cup or Olympics or just week to week in the tournaments. But I think, it’s important to get behind some of these countries and get them excited about tennis, and their players, and that’s really my goal with Fed Cup. It’s how we can create that excitement with all these different countries and getting behind these local girls!
Q: Since we are on the topic of playing for your own country. Next year is the Olympics. Do you have any goals or have any given any thought to it?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Of course! Rio was my first Olympics, and I got a gold with Jack Sock in mixed doubles. So one of the big goals right now is to make the 2020 team. There’s a lot of time between now and then, a lot of tournaments. So it’s definitely in the horizon, but I would love to be in Tokyo. It was such a great experience in Rio, that I want to do it again.
Q: On the men’s side there is the Laver Cup. It has become a huge success, mainly due to the players showing a lot of passion for the event. Would you like to see the women’s being incorporated? Or perhaps creating a women’s only event similar to the Laver Cup. Would this be something you are interested in to take part?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Definitely! I would definitely take part. I think it’s one of the fun things to watch the Laver Cup for is how excited the players are getting out of it They have a short scoring short format, and makes the games and points exciting. They really did a great job on social media, everyone’s posting about it. They did a great job on fan engagement and interaction, and I think that’s what fans want, they want to get close and get in the action with the players, and they want to see the emotions, and I think it was a great competition. The women’s will definitely have something, whether that’s with the men with Laver cup or our own thing. We’ll definitely do something like that in the future
Q: Who would your dreams mixed doubles and doubles partner be from Team World?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: I mean, Team World is stacked! I won with Jack (Sock), he’s unreal in doubles. When he gets those forehands, he punishes the ball, so I’m gonna throw Jack out there again. Women’s doubles from Team World… I’m going to have to go with…. so, Australia, I’m going to ask Ash Barty.
Q: Last question, Olympic singles gold medal, or a Grand Slam singles runners up?
Bethanie Mattek-Sands: Or a runners up?! You gotta go with the win. I think they’re both important. I mean, Olympics comes every four years so its a little bit more unique. But I want it all! Who doesn’t want it all? I want all the trophies!
Quarterfinal day here at the Eastbourne International gave the fans plenty of excitement as it not only featured the top seeds of the tournament, but also home crowd favourites Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans. The marquee match arguably was on the women’s as two former world no.1’s, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep, battled it out for a place in the semifinals tomorrow.
Eventually, the current reigning Wimbledon champion, Kerber, defeated Halep comfortably in straight sets 6-4 5-3.
After the match, Simona Halep commented on how good Kerber played today: “She played really well today. I didn’t play bad. I think that I missed a little bit too much in some points, important points, and I didn’t take my chances. Also, in the second set, first game, I had 40-15 on my serve and I couldn’t take the game. But in my opinion, it was a good match.
When asked about her expectations about looking forward to Wimbledon: “Expectations are pretty okay in my head, but I don’t put pressure. Just match by match, and we will see how good I can be on grass this year.
Meanwhile, the battle of the Brits took place as British no.1 Kyle Edmund played his countryman Dan Evans. After dropping the first set 6-1, Edmund upped his intensity and won the subsequent two sets 6-3 6-4 and booked his place in the semifinals.
In his press conference after his match, Edmund said: “A poor start in terms of getting in the match. Like, you could say, yeah, credit to Dan for sort of putting his stamp on it. But also, I think I could have done a lot better and a lot more to stop that or put a bit more of my stamp on it.”
“But the best thing from that is to react to it, and I did. Just got more engaged. Put my sort of personality and engagement into the match and my game almost. I have good ability to be aggressive and take control of rallies and games, so it was really good for me, obviously not playing a lot of matches”
Other notable results worthy of mention are the third seed Kiki Bertens beating the eighth seed Belarusian, Aryna Sabalenka, in a three-set thriller 6-4 3-6 6-4. On the men’s side, two youngsters battled it out as Taylor Fritz beat Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-4 7-6.
Tomorrow’s semifinal on the men’s side will be Brit Kyle Edmund taking on America’s Taylor Fritz and qualifier Thomas Fabbiano playing America’s Sam Querrey.
On the women’s side, the two semifinal matches will be the defending Wimbledon champion, Angelique Kerber taking on Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur and Czech’s Karolina Pliskova playing Kiki Bertens of Netherlands.
The biggest shock on Day 4 at the Eastbourne International was British women’s number one, Johanna Konta, beaten by world no. 62, Ons Jabeur in straight sets 6-3 6-2.
After the match, Konta analysed her match and said: “Well, to be honest, I mean, I think I just played an opponent who played very well today. I didn’t feel like I actually did too much wrong. Actually, I don’t think I did anything wrong. There is very few things I could have tried differently or more of, but to be honest, I actually thought I did quite well in the amount of questions I asked my opponent today, and she just was answering them every time.”
“It’s just she played incredibly well. She was able to get back balls from different positions of the court and hit winners from different positions of the court. Any changes of rhythm that I actually tried to give, yeah, she was just able to find her range and find her game from any balls that I gave her, which obviously makes it quite difficult for me not to be able to kind of put her on the back foot at all.”
When asked about whether she tried to change anything strategically in the game, Konta said: “I tried to obviously sometimes slow down the balls a bit because I know she absorbs pace very well. And then I tried to speed it up, because I tried to get at it that way. I tried to sometimes go through the middle a bit more. She was moving around the ball quite well. So then I tried to move it out wide.”
“She was moving well out wide (smiling). So then I tried to use slower slices. I tried to use faster slices. I actually thought I varied my serve quite well. I went through pretty much every serve I can hit.”
On the men’s side, the top two seeds were eliminated. America’s Taylor Fritz defeated the number one seed, Guido Pella in three close sets, 6-4 3-6 6-4. Also, the number two seed Laslo Djere was eliminated by qualifier Thomas Fabbiano in two tiebreak sets 7-6 7-6.
Looking ahead to Thursday, the marquee match on the women’s side will be former world no. 1 Simona Halep taking on defending Wimbledon champion, Angelique Kerber.
On the men’s side, it is the battle of the Brits, as British no.1 Kyle Edmund playing against his compatriot Dan Evans.
Edmund commented about his upcoming Evans match “He’s seeing the ball well. It’s another opportunity for me just in the match itself, forgetting about Dan… I just gotta get out there and play my best, really. Last few days I have been in a good place playing. I liked how I transferred that to the match court today. Hopefully I can keep improving.”
“Dan’s game is obviously, backhand probably 75% is slicing or something. I think there will be a bit more longer rallies with Dan because he slows up the ball a lot more.”
British no.1 Johanna Konta came through two tough sets today 6-4 7-6, against Greece’s Maria Sakkari to advance to the next round at the Eastbourne International.
After the match, Konta said: “Maria played well, to be honest. Yeah, no, I’m pleased I was able to stay calm and also just a good perspective. I don’t think anything major happened. It was important to see it that way and see the good things that I was doing. Yeah, I mean, it could have easily gone to a third set, so I definitely wasn’t taking anything for granted out there. Yeah, just pleased to have just, yeah, kept a good perspective and just competed well.”
“I’m very pleased to come through that. I think there was so little in it and in both sets. Our points actually felt that she was playing better than me, so I was just really pleased that I was able to stay with her and create a few opportunities and take a few of them. So, yeah, pleased I have come through.”
She will face Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the third round, who she played back in 2015 in Sydney qualifying- a match that the Brit won comfortably in straight sets 6-2 6-2.
British player Dan Evans also came through today by beating Moldova’s Radu Albot 7-6 6-2. In the press conference, he said: “Today I felt a bit flat at the start but got into it. You know, I hung around a
lot last week, played dubs. So I was a bit lethargic at the start, but I thought I got going and I’m pretty happy with the end of that match. Yeah, it was a good match. It’s a great week for me.”
When asked about his thoughts about being back again competing in Eastbourne, Evans commented, “Yes, I mean, it’s nice to being back here, having another good match on grass before Wimbledon. That’s why I’m here. I like to play here on (the) grass, so I try to enjoy every match and every moment right now.”
Defending Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber had a tricky match-up as she played former top world 10 player, Samantha Stosur, but nevertheless prevailed in straight sets 6-4 6-4.
In her press conference, she discussed the differences between winning her maiden Grand Slam title in Australia and winning Wimbledon last year. “I think after I won Australia, a lot of things change. I mean, especially in Germany. It was so huge that someone after Steffi won the first Grand Slam, and, yeah, without expectation, I played in Australia and everything.”
“And of course then to winning Wimbledon as my third Grand Slam was even more special, because it was not just that I had the lucky draw or I just won my first one. It was my third one. And Wimbledon was always the tournament that I really would like to win one day.”
Other notable mentions are sixth seed Simona Halep taking out Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei 6-2 6-0 and Caroline Wozniacki beating Andrea Petkovic 6-4 6-4.
It has been a big week for 19-year-old Paul Jubb. Not only did he play his first ever professional match at Eastbourne, but he also received a wildcard for the main draw at Wimbledon where he will make his Grand Slam debut. The young Brit (and South Carolina Gamecock player) came through qualifying after beating Russia’s Andrey Rublev in the final round. However, his final preparations for Wimbledon ended, as he was defeated by America’s Taylor Fritz in straight sets 6-2 6-3 in the first round on Monday.
When asked about whether if he thought he played well and his general thoughts about the match, Jubb said: “Yeah, definitely. Just another good match under the belt for more experience, and that’s all I’m trying to gain now. (Fritz) doesn’t give much rhythm. Obviously he serves really well. Has a huge forehand. Yeah, he takes a lot of points away from you so there’s not much rhythm there.”
“It’s just been a tough four weeks or whatever. Yeah, a bit tough on the body, the grass is. But, yeah, just recovery is key right now.”
Jubb’s serve was broken four times throughout the match, the young Brit commented about it, “Yeah, it’s something where it’s good to keep getting better, and it’s something that has been a weak part of my game and something I have been trying to get better.”
Jubb, who is still a college student at the University of South Carolina, also commented on what is in the store for him in the next few months, “Just getting more experience now on the pro tour, playing more matches at this level hopefully. Yeah, and then right now I’ll be going back to college. That’s still my decision.”
“It depends with classes and stuff. Not sure how many more I’ve got to take. I might end up having to go back another semester to finish classes”
“(I) Just make the most of those opportunities I have been presented and just compete my hardest and see what happens. And the more the weeks went on, I managed to do a bit better each week. Showing potential there. So, yeah, just very grateful, really.”
Jubb also recently became the first ever Brit to win the NCAA singles title – the highest tier of college tennis in the USA. “The top of college tennis, this season I had I was playing good players week in, week out. It’s something that’s helped me prepare for this moment. I had a lot of good wins under my belt in college. So a lot of the good tennis I’m playing now is because of what I have done this past season”
“I definitely wouldn’t be here now if I didn’t go that route, I don’t think.”
The teenage Brit also discussed his admiration for the current world no.1 Novak Djokovic, and revealed that he copies the Serb’s returning stance, “I just love the way he moves so elegantly and just the way he plays. Yeah, just the way he can shut down the court. Yeah, just physically outplay people. Yeah, I just love his game.”
“Like, I have studied Novak’s game for so long and just — that was just, that return stance, I felt comfortable doing that. Yeah, I have used that stance for a long time.”
Estoril Open Semifinals: Stefanos Tsitsipas and Pablo Cuevas book finals places Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
Just like the quarterfinals, long, hard-fought battles with a lot of twists and turns were the dominant theme on semifinal Saturday. Eventually, both favorites advanced to contest tomorrow’s final but not without overcoming great adversity first.
In the first semifinal David Goffin vs Stefanos Tsitsipas, Goffin started up great, playing his best tennis of the year to win the first set 6-3 with two breaks. He was moving Tsitsipas around the court with ease and firing winners at will. The second set, however, saw the match take a very unexpected turn, not because Tsitsipas won but because 7 of the 10 games were breaks of serve, including 7 of the first 8, something incredibly atypical in an ATP match. At the end of the second, 56 points had been won by the server in the match and 56 by the returner as well. It was Tsitsipas who emerged victorious of this peculiar situation, with Goffin repeatedly missing forehands on important, a trend that continued in the third set, where Goffin look better and closer to victory for the most part but kept making terrible errors in the most important points while Tsitsipas hang tough and sneaked a decisive late break. Losing in this fashion won’t do any good to Goffin’s continually waning confidence but at least the level is still there. Tsitsipas on the other hand showed why he’s now a top 10 player, winning despite getting dominated for large portions of the match, and will play for his second title of the year tomorrow.
The second semifinal was also a very tight and hard fought contest… at first at least. Alejandro Dadidovich Fokina won a very tight first set by coming through in the clutch but he got broken at 2-3 in the second set in what was the point of the tournament, featuring an impossible Pablo Cuevas no-look smash retrieval. In his frustration, Fokina sent the ball to the crowd, seemingly injured himself in the process and was never the same again. Cuevas would only lose 2 more games the entire match; Fokina won some good points, but looked to be struggling physically, cramping to the finish line. It was still a good week for him, coming all the way through qualifiers and showing he has what it takes to rise up the rankings quickly in the coming years.
In the final, Tsitsipas is a clear favorite, being the far superior player overall. But these 250 clay tournaments are where Cuevas makes his living and he will definitely be a very tough nut to crack. Whoever wins will become a new champion in Estoril.
Estoril Open QF day: Stefanos Tsitsipas beats local hero, battles to the finish on center court Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
Friday was a very long day at the Estoril Open, with every match being long and tightly contested until the end. The day began with fast rising Stefanos Tsitsipas taking on local hero João Domingues. While Tsitsipas winning came as a surprise to no one, the manner in which he did might have. Domingues put up an incredible fight and was unlikely not take at least a set. He was bold, aggressive and was hitting great shots. He broke early and has 30-0 when serving for the first set, but couldn’t close it. He had already been close to beating Kevin Anderson at this same venue 2 years ago, but just like then he couldn’t get the big win with his opponent’s superior experience and pedigree coming through in the end.
Tsitsipas’s opponent will be David Goffin, who won a very long and tense match against Jaziri. He started strong and took an early break only to give it away and lose the first set 4-6; he was up a double break on two occasions in the second set, including at 5-2, but once again just couldn’t capitalize and only barely eeked out a tiebreak to then barely sweat in the deciding set. Goffin’s level was far from good and incredibly far from the one that took him as high as #7 in the world less than 2 years ago. Winning in this manner might be what he needs to start regaining his lost confidence. Beating Tsitsipas in the semifinal would of course go even further towards it, but it’s a difficult bet for anyone to made judging by their respective levels so far this year.
The second semifinal will be played between the two night session winners: Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and Pablo Cuevas. Davidovich Fokina won a pulsating match against Gael Monfils, which had the crowd on their feet on many occasions such was the spectacle produced by Monfils’s athleticism and Dadivovich’s shotmaking talent. At several stages, Monfiils look like he had it, with Fokina looking tired and making a lot of double faults, but in the end the young Spaniard got his scalp with Monfils getting a somewhat disappointing result in his return to the ATP tour after being sidelined due to injuries for a few weeks ago. Monfils still leaves Estoril as a massive fan favorite, with the entire stadium pulling for him and collective disappointment when he was eliminated.
Fokina’s semifinal opponent will be Pablo Cuevas, a veteran of the clay circuit who just keeps going on against all odds. Tiafoe may have made the final last year, but he looked totally out of his depth for the majority of this one, with the second set win really not accurately portraying just how (not) close the match was. Sets 1 and 3 were pretty straightforward with Tiafoe barely able to win points for long stretches. His effort was admirable but ultimately Cuevas is simply the better player in this sort of conditions.
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.
It was a day of upsets in Estoril as home crowd favorite João Sousa and emerging American Frances Tiafoe made their way into the final of the Estoril Open, knocking out Stefanos Tsitsipas and last year’s champion Pablo Carreno Busta.
The first semifinal was the one everyone in Estoril was eagerly awaiting and it certainly didn’t disappoint. After a titanic two hour tussle, João Sousa defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 3rd set tiebreak to book his 1st ever final at his home tournament, making it the second time a Portuguese player reaches that stage in Estoril after Frederico Gil in 2010 (lost to Montanes). Tsitsipas breadsticked the Portuguese in the second set, but he visibly ran out of gas in the third set after all the tennis he’s been playing lately and the home crowd pushed Sousa past the finish line.
The second semifinal saw a relatively empty court, with a lot of people having left after the emotional high of Sousa’s win. Tiafoe didn’t let that bother him at all though and produced an incredible performance to easily dispatch Carreno Busta. The American didn’t face a single break point and applied pressure in basically every return game, hitting one great winner after another to reach his first ever ATP final on clay. Carreno Busta’s famed consistency was just no match to the brilliance of Tiafoe on the day.
Going into the final, it’s hard to predict a winner. If he repeats today’s performance, Tiafoe will definitely be lifting the trophy, but it will be a completely different situation with a boisterous home crowd spurring on Sousa on his quest to become the first ever Portuguese winner in Portugal’s only ATP 250 event. It’s certainly a very intriguing matchup to wrap up this year’s edition of the tournament, especially considering the overall lack of strength of the field. It could very well turn out to be a historic day for Portuguese tennis if Sousa manages to pull yet another win.