João Sousa stormed into Portuguese history yesterday by becoming the first national player to reach the second week of Wimbledon (see update).
His epic battle on No 1 court against the only remaining British male player in the championships saw crowds often rooting for plucky adversary Daniel Evans.
But the titanic battle (4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4) ended with Sousa winning in a nailbiting tie-break to respect all-round.
TV commentators were full of the fact that “this is the first time a Portuguese player has done so well”.
For now, 30-year-old Sousa is basking in the glory – thanking all his supporters online and admitting that the “feeling of being in the third round of Wimbledon after beating a huge player” is unique.
He told Portuguese reporters: “Naturally I am very proud. It was such a demanding match, on a physical and a mental level – and with the public pushing for (Evans), which is normal. I went down several times, but I managed to get back and I always believed I could win. There were good moments and some not so good, but all in all, I think I played very well”.
Sousa, who entered the championship ranked 63 in the world, now faces Rafael Nadal – the world’s No 2 player and a two-time winner of this prestigious lawn championships in London’s SW19.
Their match is scheduled first in the schedule of play, starting at 1pm.
Nadal has said of his adversary, that Sousa “can be dangerous when he has a positive dynamic because he moves very rapidly and has flat shots that work well on grass”.
But it was not to be. Dangerous he may be, but ‘Rafa’ got the better of Portugal’s record-breaker and Sousa’s incredible winning streak at Wimbledon has now come to a close.
Said reports over the weekend, whatever the result, João Sousa has earned handsomely from his performance, pocketing prize money of 198,000 euros, and rising through the world rankings to “at least 57th place”.