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Sousa, Benneteau Set Final Showdown

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sousa© Nick Freyer/Malaysian OpenJoao Sousa is enjoying a breakthrough fortnight

World No. 77 Joao Sousa and fifth seed Julien Benneteau will each vie for their maiden ATP World Tour title on Sunday at the Malaysian Open, in Kuala Lumpur. 

Sousa became the first player from Portugal to reach an ATP World Tour final since 2010, by overcoming fourth seed Jurgen Melzer 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours and three minutes. The last player from the nation to reach a final was Frederico Gil in Oeiras, Portugal in May 2010.

"It's my first final... I just feel great," said Sousa, who said he's pleased with his performance since the US Open. "It's a great week for me this week."

The 24-year-old Sousa, who produced the best win of his career by defeating top seed David Ferrer in the quarter-finals, is enjoying a breakthrough tournament. The right-hander jumped to a career-high No. 77 in the Emirates ATP Rankings this week after reaching his first ATP World Tour semi-final in St. Petersburg last week (l. to Garcia-Lopez). 

With his win over Melzer, Sousa extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head lead over the left-handed Austrian to 2-0.

The right-hander doesn't expect the final to be easy. "It's going to be tough... I'm going to give 100 per cent tomorrow to win the title here, for sure. [If I win] it will be good not just for me, but for my country, Portugal," he said. Sousa's success in Malaysia forced him to withdraw from next week's China Open in Beijing, where he was due to play in the qualifying draw.

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France's Benneteau defeated second seed Stanislas Wawrinka 6-4, 6-3 in their semi-final, which lasted one hour and 18 minutes.

"I did not expect that... I was preparing myself for a tough match. The score is pretty easy, but when you are on the court, it is never easy," said the right-handed Benneteau.

The 31 year old improved his FedEx ATP Head2Head record over the Swiss No. 2 to 2-1 to advance to his first final since February when he reached his eighth career ATP World Tour final (0-8) in Rotterdam (l. to del Potro). 

"It's another chance... I hope it will be a good one," Benneteau said. "I'm excited but I'm not desperate [to win]. If I stay healthy, I have a few more years in front of me, for sure."

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