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Julien Benneteau: Is he tennis' unlucky loser?

updated 4:21 PM EDT, Mon September 30, 2013
Julien Benneteau, right, looked stunned in Kuala Lumpur after he lost yet another tennis final.
Julien Benneteau, right, looked stunned in Kuala Lumpur after he lost yet another tennis final.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Julien Benneteau slumped to 0-9 in finals after losing a thriller against Joao Sousa
  • Benneteau had a match point in Kuala Lumpur in the second set but then lost in three
  • Sousa became the first Portuguese man to ever win an ATP title
  • Rafael Nadal can reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic this week in Beijing

(CNN) -- History was made on two fronts when Joao Sousa beat Julien Benneteau to win the Malaysian Open.

While Sousa celebrated becoming the first Portuguese man to claim an ATP title, Benneteau wasn't nearly as joyous. He slumped to 0-9 in finals to tie the unwanted men's record in the Open era, which began in 1968.

Is he tennis' unlucky loser?

Benneteau's fellow Frenchman, Cedric Pioline, and American Pat Dupre also lost their first nine finals, although Pioline went on to triumph five times -- he was a two-time grand slam finalist -- and Dupre ended his drought in Hong Kong in 1982.

No man has lost his first 10 finals in the Open era, said the ATP.

Benneteau was so close to overturning his woe in finals, too, holding a match point in the second set Sunday against Sousa.

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He did little wrong on the point, approaching the net with a good forehand, but Sousa unleashed a stunning forehand down the line.

Benneteau then wasted a flurry of break points in the final set and fell 2-6 7-5 6-4.

French sports daily L'Equipe used the headline, 'Benneteau, nothing new,' when referring to his defeat on its website, and the player tweeted a picture of what looked like a beer accompanied by the words: 'To forget.'

"I tried everything today," Benneteau, 31, told the ATP's website. "I played very well, particularly I was very aggressive and I didn't let him play for two sets almost. I had match point and I played the point perfectly.

"It's hard, it's very hard. I was leading the match, but this is tennis."

Sousa couldn't stop smiling during the trophy presentation but spared a thought for Benneteau.

"I knew (about Benneteau's previous finals)," he told the ATP's website. "I feel bad for him."

That Sousa, 24, trumped compatriots Michelle Larcher de Brito and Gastao Elias by winning a title came as a surprise, since Larcher de Brito was a top prospect reared at Nick Bollettieri's famed academy in Florida and Elias once ranked sixth as a junior.

But Sousa, mentored by Rafael Nadal's part-time coach Francisco Roig, entered Kuala Lumpur in good form, reaching the semifinals in St. Petersburg.

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He upset top-seed David Ferrer en route to the final in Kuala Lumpur and is now Portugal's highest-ranked player at No. 51.

"People can start to know Portuguese tennis and I think that's great," said Sousa.

Top two in Beijing

Nadal will almost certainly reclaim the No. 1 ranking from Novak Djokovic during the Asian swing and both see action Tuesday at the China Open.

Djokovic meets Nadal's conqueror at Wimbledon in 2012, Lukas Rosol, and Nadal faces Colombian Santiago Giraldo.

Lleyton Hewitt was among the winners on the opening day of competition in Beijing as he beat German Tommy Haas in straight sets.

Fellow Australian Bernard Tomic also advanced after seeing off China's No.1 Ze Zhang.

In the women's tournament, Germany's Andrea Petkovic knocked out Belarusian second seed Victoria Azarenka.

The momentum swung between the two players but it was Petkovic who won the decisive third set, taking the last two games to love to claim a 6-4 2-6 6-4 win.

"It was an awful match and a very bad performance from me, so there's not much to say about it," said U.S. Open runner-up Azarenka.

"I don't feel like I was ready to play - the preparation wasn't enough, I cannot deny that. It's my mistake for not paying enough attention after the U.S .Open how I managed my time and managed my health."

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