Estoril Open 2018: João Sousa becomes first ever Portuguese champion
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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.
Carreno Busta and Muller Setup Unexpected Final in Estoril
Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
It’s been an exciting week at Portugal’s only ATP tournament in Estoril, as the final is now set between Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta and serve and volleying veteran Gilles Muller. Carreno Busta, a finalist last year, hasn’t dropped a set through three matches and has been in good form on European clay this year. He seems very comfortable on the main court and has played technically sound, skillful clay court tennis, as he slipped past Tommy Robredo, and then dismantled Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer, having beaten three formerly highly ranked Spanish clay court veterans this week. Ferrer winning a pair of easy matches over Portugese wild card Frederico Ferreira Silva and American Ryan Harrison to reach the semfinals and find his footing after a woeful year. PCB will thus be the expected favorite against Muller.
Muller, who much prefers fast surfaces, had a 4-10 clay court record since 2013 prior to playing in Estoril, but has now won three straight on his worst surface, defeating Pedro Sousa, Taro Daniel in three sets, and Kevin Anderson to reach the final. Muller maneuvered past Anderson’s big serve, which had allowed him to upset Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals, and Daniel, who is usually at his best on clay, simply cracked under pressure in their quarterfinal match. Despite the fact he’s unlikely to defeat Carreno Busta, he should have plenty of confidence heading into the final, and if he serves well anything is possible, even on clay.
In doubles, fans have enjoyed the success of Spanish veterans Tommy Robredo and David Marrero, while Ryan Harrison and Michael Venus are out to surprise them in the final, having beaten the top seeds in the opening round of doubles action.
Stay tuned for the story of the finals tomorrow!
All-Spanish Final at Estoril Open 2016 as Underdogs Prevail in Semis
Manuel Traquete, Tennis Atlantic
The 2016 Estoril Open final will feature two Spanish players who’ve enjoyed a lot of success at Futures and Challenger level in Portugal and are now looking for their maiden title at the Portuguese ATP 250 tournament.
In the first semifinal of the day, Pablo Carreno Busta quickly found himself 3-0 down but dominated from there to score a comfortable 6-3 6-3 win. Benoit Paire was in one of those days where he just piles up the unforced errors and double faults, while the Spaniard remained typically focused and solid from the back of the court to secure a second ATP final of the year and his career (lost to Cuevas in São Paulo earlier this year). After semifinal losses to Wawrinka in 2013 and Kyrgios last year, PCB will finally get a chance to play for the trophy in Portugal.
The other finalist will be Nicolas Almagro, who finally is showing signs that he can return to at least a top 20 position in the rankings. The former world #9 has reached his 23rd career ATP final (all on clay) and will be looking for a 13th title after beating Nick Kyrgios with surprising ease 6-3 7-5. It was a match played under very difficult windy conditions and it was Almagro who got used to it better and managed to impose his game despite some typical mental hiccups when serving out the match. Kyrgios looked very frustrated with the conditions all match long, didn’t manage to get as much as he’d have liked off his serve and misfired a lot from the baseline as well. He will be disappointed with this defeat, but all things considered he still had a good week and will now look forward to Madrid.
On paper, Almagro has far more weapons than Carreno Busta and should win this title, but we all know things are rarely that easy with Almagro, who’s famous for his mental weakness more than anything else. Carreno Busta knows that if he stays solid and consistent there’s a real chance Almagro will get frustrated and implode, we’ve seen it happen a lot of times during his career against all kinds of opponents. There’s very little doubt, however, that this final will be on Almagro’s racket, if he shows up focused and doesn’t have any big mental hiccups he will be lifting his 13th career title on Sunday afternoon.
Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky captured the doubles title over favorites Lukasz Kubot and Marcin Matkowski, the American doubles tandem won a rare title on clay over a European team.