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Sousa rallies past Benneteau for first title



Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Sports Network) - Joao Sousa of Portugal earned his first career ATP title with a three-set victory over France's Julien Benneteau in Sunday's final at the Malaysian Open.

Sousa, ranked 77th in the world, rallied for a 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 triumph to become the first Portuguese player to win an ATP tournament. The previous best result by a Portuguese man was Frederico Gil, who had a runner-up finish in Portugal in May 2010.

"I'm so tired mentally and physically, but I just feel amazing, it's just a dream come true," said Sousa. "I'm really happy to win this title. I hope this helps (my) confidence and to try and do better things."

The 24-year-old Sousa's best previous finish was just last week, a semifinal loss to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in St. Petersburg, Russia. He became the 12th unseeded winner this season and the seventh first-time winner in 2013.

Benneteau, meanwhile, remained winless. It was his ninth career final and second this year. He also lost to Juan Martin del Potro in Rotterdam back in February.

The 31-year-old Frenchman was so close to his first title, holding a match point at 5-4 in the second set with Sousa serving. Sousa, though, saved it with a passing shot and carried the momentum by winning three straight games to force a third set.

"At 5-4, I had match point and I played the point perfectly," said Benneteau. "He made the passing shot down the line with his forehand."

Seeded fifth this week, Benneteau also finished as the runner-up for the second straight year in this event. He lost to Juan Monaco in last year's final.

"I took my chance, it didn't pay off and it's hard, it's hard, it's very hard," a disappointed Benneteau added. "But it's sport. It's tough because I was leading the match, but this is tennis. You have to win some key points."

Sousa collected a first prize of $158,000.

09/29 09:47:11 ET