Two unlikely, but highly deserving finalists will step out on Court Guillermo Vilas one last time on Sunday to contest in the summit clash of the 2020 Argentina Open.
Eighth seed Casper Ruud and qualifier Pedro Sousa have had contrasting but equally impressive runs to this point and it will be an intense affair in the finals, with both players coming into the match with very high stakes.
Already projected to reach a career-best ranking on Monday, the 21-year-old Ruud will be eager to win on Sunday and break it into the top-32 of the world just in time for Masters 1000 tournaments in March. That said, it will be Sousa, who will be playing in the biggest match of his career.
The Portuguese qualifier is also projected to reach a career-high ranking of 95, come a win on Sunday. But a title after spending around a decade and half of the tour will be an even bigger prize for Sousa.
Sousa has played the better part of his career on the Challenger circuit and it was only in 2019 that he made his top-100 debut. And now he stands the chance of becoming just the second man from Portugal to win a youth-level title. Understandably emotional, he said,
I [...] took my chance and am enjoying every time I’m playing in this tournament. Hopefully I can do a good job tomorrow.
And that's just one side of it. The 31-year-old seasoned campaigner has played some solid tennis all week right through qualifiers and into the main draw.
Even though Ruud will be the clear favourite to win the match and the title on Sunday, Sousa has a lot of things working in his favour as well.
The unheralded challenger will be difficult to play owing to the surprise element of his game. Ruud has never played him before, but for one who has followed Sousa's game, they'd know that the man from Lisbon has a few tricks up his sleeve.
For someone who has played most of his tennis on clay, Sousa has a surprisingly good touch and slice. And while his backhand is definitely the stronger wing, he can hit efficient, if not explosive groundstrokes off the forehand as well. Movement around the court is where Sousa, much like many other clay-court specialists, shines.
In essence, Sousa has the game to win, and win big. February has thrown up its fair share of surprise surges for the likes of Sousa, who have been around the tour for long without ever really getting their due. Pune had Roberto Marcora and Egor Gerasimov, Montpellier had Grégoire Barrère, but all of them came up just short. It is about time that one of them goes all the way through.
Prediction: Sousa to win in three setsPublished 16 Feb 2020, 02:25 IST