Joao Sousa wins Malaysian Open, becomes Portugal's first winner on ATP tour
The unseeded Sousa defeated fifth seed Julien Benneteau of France 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the final.
Unseeded Joao Sousa defeated fifth seed Julien Benneteau of France 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the Malaysian Open final on Sunday for his maiden career title -- the first ATP win for Portugal.
Sousa, 24, emerged as a giant killer in the event, earlier defeating top seed and world No. 4 David Ferrer in the last eight, and then fourth seed Juergen Melzer of Austria in the semi-finals on the indoor hard court.
"I don't know what to say right now. It is unbelievable," he said. "I have had so many breakthroughs this past two weeks (reaching his first final, beating a top 10 player and winning first title).
"It used to be that when you failed to win a title if you're 18, you won't have much chance, but now it is different," he said.
"The average age of the top 100 is 28, so there is still hope for me. I admire Roger (Federer) and Rafael (Nadal) and hope to be up there one day, but realise my standard, I don't want to think too far," added Sousa, who will break into the top 50 when the next ranking list is issued on Monday.
It was a remarkable turnaround by Sousa, who was visibly nervous in the opening set, losing his serve in the fourth and eight games to drop it in 36 minutes.
Although his service did not improve much in the second, Sousa did enough to hold off Benneteau, including saving the championship ball in the second set to claim a come-from-behind 7-5 win to level the match.
Failing to convert the break point for victory clearly affected the Frenchman, while Sousa grew in confidence. He opened the deciding set by easily breaking Benneteau and never looked back.
For the 31-year-old Benneteau, it was the second consecutive year he has lost in the final in Malaysia.
"I don't think I deserve to lose as I played very well, but Sousa just had that little bit extra," admitted Benneteau.
"I'm so disappointed right now. I had my chances but failed to take them."
He is still searching for his first career singles title after reaching nine finals - matching compatriot Cedric Pioline, who only won his first title in his 10th final.
Sousa earned US$158,000 and 250 Emirates ATP ranking points, with the runner-up picking up US$83,240 and 150 points.
In the doubles final, American Eric Butorac secured his second Malaysian Open crown when he and his new partner, South African Raven Klaasen, defeated the Uruguayan-Argentinian pairing of Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos - who were semi-finalists at the French Open - 6-2, 6-4 in just 56 minutes.
Butorac first won a title in Bangkok in 2011 with Dutchman Jean-Julien Rojer.
The champions won US$48,000 and the runners-up US$25,200.