'Hard work pays off' - Joao Sousa thrilled to be in ASB Classic final

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Portuguese gun Joao Sousa's aggressive approach in his ASB Classic semi-final has paid off, bulleting out of the blocks to beat Marcos Baghdatis 6-1, 7-5.

Joao Sousa

Joao Sousa

Source: Photosport

The 27-year-old Sousa was unplayable early on in Auckland, winning the first five games with crisp baseline play and making his higher-profile foe do plenty of running.

Cruising to a 6-1 first-set win, Sousa was then able to hold strong with Baghdatis breathing down his neck in the second set and secure the match.

"He's very solid from the baseline, he likes to counterattack so I was trying to play fast, be aggressive, take control of the points every time," Sousa said.

"Hard work pays off and I had a really good pre-season, feeling great, and I've been playing better and better this tournament."

Heavily favoured heading into the match, the Cypriot world No.36 simply couldn't get his game going in Auckland and won barely a quarter of return points.

Service was also a major sore point as the 31-year-old Baghdatis notched five double faults and nailed less than half of all first serves.

Having clawed his way back into a competitive position in the second set, Baghdatis wasted a protracted deuce at 5-4 before being broken a game later.

The eighth seed admitted his energy levels were low after tough wins against wild card Dustin Brown and Czech 2015 champion Jiri Vesely.

"I was a bit flat in the beginning, got broken really early, it was tough to find my rhythm," the former Australian Open finalist said.

"I had my chances there at the end of the second set (but) I wasn't aggressive enough on his second serve."

Sousa, ranked 44th in the world, has surprised many with some superb tennis in Auckland and has blown through Baghdatis and fifth-seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas on route to the final.

He'll now face fourth-seed Jack Sock in Saturday's decider after the American's clinical straight-sets win over compatriot Steve Johnson.

The pair have recent history, with the Barcelona-based Sousa emerging triumphant on the clay courts of Madrid last year.

"Every player works hard to achieve goals and of course we always try to win titles, it's not easy on the ATP tour," Sousa said.

"You try your best in the finals, it is the furthest final from home I've ever played but I feel the fans are with me in Portugal and here as well."

The final will also be Sousa's first for more than a year, having lifted the trophy in Valencia in 2015.

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