Carlos Moya struggled in the second set but came on strong in the third Saturday to beat Gustavo Kuerten and become the first Spaniard to earn the world No. 1 men's ranking.
Moya, the 1998 French Open champion, defeated Kuerten, who won the title at Roland Garros in 1997, by scores of 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 in their Champions Cup semifinal.
A delighted Moya celebrated on the court by joining hands with his coach, Jose Perlas, and trainer Luis Miguel Morales, and doing a weird dance. They jumped in unison for several moments.
The win assured Moya of jumping from No. 4 to the top spot when the ATP rankings are released Monday. He replaces Pete Sampras, who lost in the second round of the Champions Cup.
Moya's victory over Kuerten gave in the tournament sponsored by Newsweek gave him 3,484 points. He can add to that with another win in Sunday's final. Sampras has 3,447 points.
Mark Philippoussis and Chris Woodruff, both unseeded, were in the other semifinal.
Moya is the 15th player to hold the top spot since the ATP rankings began in 1973. He becomes the second Spanish player at No. 1 - Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario earned the top ranking for women on Feb. 6, 1995, and stayed there for 12 weeks.
Kuerten had beaten Moya in their three previous meetings, all on clay, and he seemed to have taken the momentum when he dominated the second set of their semifinal.
But Moya quickly took control in the third set, breaking Kuerten in the second game and going on to build a 5-0 lead before his Brazilian opponent finally won a game.
That was after Moya had lost the last five games of the second set.
With Moya coming to the net in the third set, Kuerten began making mistakes. He made 28 unforced errors in the match, to 15 for Moya.
A 22-year-old player from Mallorca, Moya had not lost a set all week until lapsing briefly in the semifinal.
His only U.S. victory was in Long Island in 1997, and has made just three finals in the United States.
He was ranked fifth in the world in 1998, having steadily moved up from 346th four years earlier.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia had a chance to move to No. 1 last month, but a loss to Thomas Johansson in the Guardian Direct Cup quarterfinals cost him the top spot. Kafelnikov currently is No. 3.
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