Estoril - Portugal's Joao Sousa had to battle at the end
before becoming the first home player to win the Estoril Open with a 6-4, 6-4
defeat of American Frances Tiafoe on Sunday.
The 29-year-old Sousa, ranked 68th in the world, needed to
call upon his reserves to claim the opening set by saving three break points in
the final game.
Serving for victory at 5-2 in the second, the Portuguese was
broken as Tiafoe briefly delayed the festivities.
But the local hero came good two games later as he clinched
a third career title, a feat which quickly got the mainly Portuguese crowd into
the mood for a mass sing-along chorus of celebration.
"This is fantastic, it's such a special win, especially
coming at home," Sousa said. "I'm so proud to win here.
"There are no words to describe this emotion, the fans
were fantastic all week. It was incredible, it was a dream come true.
"I always wanted to win here in Portugal."
The previous Portuguese high point at the event came in 2010
when Frederico Gil played the final, losing to Albert Montanes of Spain.
Tiafoe, realising how much the victory meant to his
opponent, crossed the net to speak with Sousa and congratulate him.
"I knew how big this is for him, it would be big for me
if I won. The whole country was behind him, I'm sure he felt that all
week," Tiafoe said.
"He's massive here, it's huge that he won. He played
too good, too tough for me.
"I'm happy for him, he's one of the nicest guys on the
Sousa, playing in his 10th final, also won Valencia in 2015
and at Kuala Lumpur five years ago.
Tiafoe, 20, was thwarted in his bid to collect a second
career title after making his trophy breakthrough in February at Delray Beach,
The world number 64 fell short in the end as he failed to
generate the momentum which had kept him in clay contention all week.
Sousa improved to 18-10 this season after a poor start which
he turned around with consistent results starting in March.
Sousa made a fast start as he produced a break of Tiafoe in
the third game of the opener to take a 2-1 lead which he held throughout as the
set progressed on level-pegging.
But NextGen player Tiafoe suddenly struck, putting the
Portuguese hope into a hole and facing three break points in the 10th game of
Sousa calmly saved all three, then earned a set point before
closing it out by winning his fifth straight point to take the lead 6-4 after
Sousa, sensing his chances, broke to start the second set,
putting his less experienced opponent on the back foot.
It quickly went to 2-0 as Tiafoe's mistakes mounted, with
the youngster committing his fourth double fault to lose the second game.
The American fell further behind before finally holding
serve for 1-4 and launching a spirited rally, although one that came too late.
"I didn't feel great during the match, I wasn't moving
my feet," Tiafoe said. "He didn't give me too many chances, I was
leaving a lot of balls short.
"He took advantage, he could play like he wanted the