VALENCIA, SPAIN-- On Sunday, the Spanish crowd of the Valencia Open were delighted with a thrilling display of tennis. Seventh seed and world number 24 Roberto Bautista Agut was going for his 2nd title after losing two weeks ago at Moscow to daunting opponent Marin Cilic. With two career titles, the 27-year-old was looking to get the home crowd involved to propel him for a third. His opponent, product of Portugal Joao Sousa was hoping to overturn a 0-3 record in finals this year as he took a shot for the final (Geneva, Umag, St. Petersburg). Guided by coach Frederico Marques, the right hander looked to end his season on a positive note with a second career title on the ATP World Tour, sole title coming in 2013 at Kuala Lumpur.
The pair's head-to-head coming in to the match was in the Portuguese's favor with their sole meeting being a three set match on the clay in Umag. The world number 46 made the head to head 2-0 in his favor as he outlasted the Spaniard 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Converting on four of five break points the Portuguese right-hander found a way to get the job done. With the victory, Sousa goes home with 250 Emirates ATP ranking points, in defeat Bautista Agut leaves with 150 ranking points.
Bautista Agut Comes Out Firing
As the match got underway the consistent baseline play from the favored Spaniard was on full display. The Spaniard took advantage of his opponents below average play. Sousa only made 48 percent of 1st serves and did not play confident tennis on the return side. The 24-year-old had no break point opportunities throughout the 1st set. All it took was one break of serve off of four opportunities to help the Spaniard take 1st set advantage, with a 6-3 scoreline. It looked as if the Spaniard was on his way to lifting his 3rd title of his career as he took a 3-2 lead in the second but fatigue then played a factor. The world number 46 made the Spaniard hit extra shots with his consistent baseline rally shots. Eventually, he displayed an efficient turn of events as two of two break points were converted. The break advantage was enough to get the match to a decider (6-3 second set).
Sousa Outlasts Fatigued Bautista Agut
With the quick turn of momentum, the world number 46 found comfort in playing his own game style and prolonging parts as he was the fresher of the two. The Spaniard found himself on the run throughout the set, unable to find the rhythm he once possessed in the match. After trading a few breaks, the 24-year-old converted a second break point. With the break in his favor, Sousa crossed the finish line with a 6-4 3rd set ending.
The Spaniard was not able to keep his energy up in the latter stages of the match. After the defeat Bautista Agut noted, “I was playing very well, a set and 3-2, had a ball for 4-2 in the second......Unfortunately, my intensity went down and I was very tired in the third set. I know that I finished the last two matches very late, I also came from Moscow where I reached the final last week, it’s been a long season and obviously this has affected my performance today.”
On the other hand it has been a long road for Sousa this year and to end his season off on a good note was a big positive. The world number 46 noted, "I’ve been based in Spain since I was 15 years old, so in a way I feel a bit at home here and it’s great to be able to win this title here and in front of my family who I had no idea was going to come; they drove 10 hours from Portugal to be here today,” revealed Sousa. “I’ve lost five finals before so going into this match I was prepared to give it all until the end and it paid off.” Overall, the three set final summed up the entertaining week that the Valencia Open provided for its fans and players.