PUNE: Portugal's Joao Sousa prevailed in a fire-fight with immensely-talented Emil Ruusuvuori in the summit clash of the Tata Open Maharashtra to clinch his first ATP singles title since May 2018 and fourth overall, here on Sunday.
Ranked 137, the 32-year-old Sousa countered the intensity of his 22-year-old sixth seed rival from Finland with his experience to emerge a 7-6 (9) 4-6 6-1 winner in the final that lasted two hours and 43 minutes at the Balewadi Sports Complex.
While the two players put on display enthralling tennis, Sousa's perseverance was key in countering the intense hitting and fighting spirit of the Finland player, who was eyeing his maiden title.
Both moved swiftly and hit the ball fluently as long points kept the fans engaged in tight contest.
The gates were opened finally for the fans as the initial matches were played before empty stadium due to COVID-19 protocols.
The first break opportunity came Sousa's way when at deuce in the fifth game, 87th-ranked Emil hit a forehand wide.
The Finn saved that and followed that up with some solid serving and accurate returns to hold.
Emil again came under pressure in the seventh game.
Sousa sensed a chance at 30-30 but Emil again produced timely good serves to stay afloat.
While Sousa, playing his 11th ATP Tour final, was holding his serves with ease in the beginning, Emil upped the ante by increasing the intensity of his returns to break his rival in the eighth game for a 5-3 lead.
Serving for the set, Emil double-faulted twice from 30-all and the match was back on serve.
In the tie-breaker, at 5-5, Sousa pushed Emil to his far left with powerful returns.
The Finn netted a backhand return to give Sousa his first set point but saved that with an ace.
A backhand error by Emil at 6-all gave Sousa another opportunity to close the set but the Finn saved that too with a breathtaking winner down the line.
Emil saved one more chance before earning his own and squandering that.
Sousa again went up with a winner and finally sealed the opening set on an Emil error.
The Portugal player got an early break in the second set to go up 3-0 but Emil got it back in the seventh.
The Finn broke Sousa in the ninth and served out the set in the next game in a dramatic turnaround.
In a repeat of second set, Sousa broke Emil early in the second game when the Finn fired a forehand long on breakpoint following a long rally and held his own for a 3-0 lead.
Emil did his best to claw his way back by earning a break chance but Sousa denied his rival with some sensational hitting under pressure and opened up a commanding 4-1 lead.
It became 5-1 when Emil hit a forehand wide at 30-all and Sousa grabbed the breakpoint with an incredible backhand passing winner.
The Portugal player converted his third match point when Emil hit a forehand return wide and long.