Alex Corretja saved three match points and overcame an error-filled performance by top-ranked Pete Sampras Saturday to set up an all-Spanish final at the ATP Tour World Championship against Carlos Moya.
Corretja, No. 6 in the world, rallied to upset Sampras 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), after Moya beat Tim Henman 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
Sampras, who is assured of retaining the No. 1 ranking for a record sixth consecutive year, had 50 unforced errors against Corretja. Corretja had only 19.
"It's a tough way to end it," Sampras said. "I had mixed emotions, coming so close to winning, being in the final. But the achievement of doing it six years in a row, and the fans giving me a nice ovation, it was a very good feeling. "
"But it wasn't the way I wanted to end the year."
"Although I felt I wasn't playing as well as I was through the week, I felt like I was playing well enough to win. He hit some unbelievable passing shots."
Sampras hit a sizzling backhand to break Corretja's serve for a 3-2 lead in the first set. He then fired two aces in the next game to ward off two break points and cruised through the remainder of the set.
But Sampras started making several uncharacteristic unforced errors and Corretja took advantage to break serve for a 3-1 lead in the second set. Two consecutive forehand errors by Sampras gave the set to Corretja.
Corretja began the third set by breaking Sampras' serve, only to see Sampras take some risky shots to break him in the next game. The Spaniard saved three match points to send the match into the decisive tiebreaker.
All three were long rallies and all three went Corretja's way, one on his winner, two on errors by Sampras. Sampras divefor a volley on the last one, but it went wide.
"That easy forehand on match point will sit on me for a while," Sampras said.
| 'I played amazingly,' Carlos Moya said of his triumph over Tim Henman. (AP) |
"We have been told by people all over the world that we can only play on clay," said Corretja, who is ranked No. 6 in the world. "Now they have to show us some respect."
Sampras, the two-time defending champion in the $3.5 million tournament, did not drop a set in three round-robin matches. He was seeking his fifth title in the tournament.
Moya, the French Open champion, turned his match in the middle of the third set, when he broke Henman's serve, tying the score 3-3.
"I played one of my best matches on indoor surfaces," Moya said.
The last Spanish finalist in this tournament was Manuel Orantes, who won what was then called the Masters in 1976 in Houston.
"I said when I came here that I wanted to win this tournament," Moya said. "Nobody believed me. Now it's just one step away from me."
Although not known for his prowess on indoor courts, Moya reached the semifinals of the championship last year in his first appearance in the tournament and now has advanced to his first final.
Ranked No. 4 in the world, Moya broke Henman's service in the seventh game and that helped him win the first set.
Henman, who will move up two spots to a career-high ranking of No. 7 in the final season rankings that come out Monday, broke Moya's serve for the first time for a 2-0 lead in the second set.
The first Briton to reach the semifinals of this event, Henman saved four break points. He held serve to win the set and tie the score.
Henman broke Moya's serve again at the start of the decisive set. But in the sixth game, Moya fought off three more break points in his next two service games.
With Henman serving to stay in the match, Moya whipped a backhand passing shot to gain a match point, then hit a tremendous return winner past Henman to clinch the match.
"I played amazingly today," Moya said. "I had to take risks. I had to hit as hard as I can to pass him."
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