João Sousa made history on Sunday afternoon (May 6) after becoming the first Portuguese tennis player to win the country’s most important tennis tournament, the Estoril Open.
With the crowd by his side, the 29-year-old claimed a 6-4, 6-4 victory over America’s up-and-comer Frances Tiafoe in one hour and 19 minutes to finally keep the title on national soil.
“It’s hard to take this in. It’s a unique feeling. Even though I never publicly confessed it, I had a strong desire to win here. Like any other Portuguese player, I’ve always dreamed of winning this title,” a tearful Sousa said after the win.
“It was a dream week for me. Honestly, I’m still in disbelief of what I just achieved. It’s a beautiful page in the history of the Portuguese sport. I’m very, very happy and I owe a lot to my family and my team for this achievement,” he added.
The win has propelled Sousa from the 68th to the 48th spot in the ATP ranking, meaning he is once again among the world’s 50 best tennis players. His victory also secured him €89,000 in prize money.
It’s yet another glorious chapter in Sousa’s successful career. He is the only Portuguese tennis player to have ever won an ATP tennis tournament, having been crowned the champion in Kuala Lumpur in 2013 and Valencia in 2015 before his latest triumph last weekend.
Meantime, the win has been celebrated by the Minister of Education who believes that Sousa’s success will help bolster the development of tennis in Portugal.
“It will have an immediate impact, but also in the medium and long-term. Tennis is an important sport, an Olympic sport, which economically is of added value for Portugal,” Tiago Brandão Rodrigues told Lusa news agency, adding that the state aims to continue investing in the sport.
He also said that the win was important not only for Sousa, but for the tournament and all the youngsters in Portugal who want to become tennis players and now have an idol to look up to.
The Secretary of State of Youth and Sports João Paulo Rebelo described Sousa’s feat as “absolutely extraordinary” considering that Frederico Gil was the only Portuguese player who had ever made the final of the tournament in 2010.
“(Sousa) is the best Portuguese tennis player ever. It was an amazing week and you could feel the support around him. Congratulations to João, his trainers and his dedication to his career,” he said, adding that he hopes Sousa will be able to now ambition even bigger wins in larger tournaments.