Lucky Loser Sousa Rides Good Fortune To First ATP Tour Final
Good things come to those who wait, but as Pedro Sousa can attest to, a bit of luck doesn’t hurt either.
The 31-year-old Portuguese wasn’t supposed to be in the main draw at the Argentina Open after losing his final-round qualifying match, but snuck in as a lucky loser due to the withdrawal of Chilean Cristian Garin. He moved into his first ATP Tour final after top-seeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman withdrew from their semi-final match on Saturday due to a left leg injury, setting up a championship clash in Buenos Aires with eighth-seeded Norwegian Casper Ruud.
Sousa’s breakthrough is a reward for relentless persistence during his 13 years on Tour. He had never reached a tour-level quarter-final prior to this week.
“I’ve never gotten so many messages,” Sousa said, smiling. “It was 3:00 or 4:00am in Portugal when I was playing [my quarter-final], so it’s been amazing to receive all that love from my friends, family and other people in Portugal.”
Sousa, No. 145 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, is only the third player from Portugal to reach a tour-level final. Should he prevail on Sunday against Ruud, he’ll become just the 10th lucky loser in ATP Tour history to lift a winner’s trophy
“It means a lot to me,” Sousa said. “Last year was not as good as I was expecting and I started this year with some problems, but I managed to change those things and started to play well this week. I got the lucky loser spot, took my chance and am enjoying every time I’m playing in this tournament. Hopefully I can do a good job tomorrow.”
The baseliner has primarily competed on the ATP Challenger Tour, but has produced his best results in recent years thanks to the help of his coach, former ATP Tour player Rui Machado. They began working together shortly after Machado ended his playing career in 2016 and Sousa has won all seven of his Challenger titles since then.
Ruud Battles Back To Reach Buenos Aires Final
But with Machado also holding a role in the Portuguese Tennis Federation, he can’t travel to all of Sousa’s tournaments. Having benefitted from working with someone he’d already spent years on Tour with, Sousa opted for a similar approach when they decided last year to add another coach. Former Top 50 player Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo was hired and quickly became an invaluable addition.
“We found Ruben because we’ve known him from the Tour for a long time,” Sousa said. “He knows everything about the game, played on Tour until he was 40, is easy to travel with and a very nice guy. I’m really happy to have him with me.”
Sousa will look to use his mix of crafty spins and angles to frustrate Ruud in Sunday’s final. The Portuguese self-deprecatingly compared his on-court traits to his favourite players growing up, Marat Safin and Guillermo Coria, but could soon join his childhood idols as champions on the ATP Tour.
“I liked Safin because he was crazy and I’m a little bit crazy, too. I’m better now than I was younger,” Sousa joked. “I liked watching Coria play because I would see him and think that he’s like me. Skinny guy, short, serve is not so good, but likes to play at the baseline and make some drop shots and angles.”