Chang halts Sampras

Tennis
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The Independent Online
Michael Chang stunned the defending champion and world No 1, Pete Sampras, 6-4 6-4, to reach today's final of the ATP Tour Championship for the first time yesterday in Frankfurt.

Chang, who had won only two matches in four previous appearances at the annual season-ending tournament of the top eight players in the world, broke Sampras once in each set and that was enough for the victory. He now meets Germany's Boris Becker who battled his way past Sweden's Thomas Enqvist, 6-4 6-7 7-5, in the other semi-final. "Today was one of those days when a lot of things worked well for me," Chang said. "It was one of the great days for me.''

In an all-American encounter, Sampras was too erratic for the steady Chang, who once again chased down the seemingly irretrievable balls and served with new-found authority. Chang, who won in one hour 16 minutes, ended the match appropriately with a service winner. "He was returning my serve very well, he was taking my best shot away and that was my serve," Sampras said.

Sampras had won the event in 1991 and 1994, and this year took the Wimbledon and US Open titles for the third time each. Despite the loss, he still finishes the season as No 1 for the third consecutive year.

Chang now faces one of his biggest challenges on an indoor court when he takes on Becker in front of his fanatical German supporters. Surprisingly Chang and Becker have met only three times in the past. Their only indoor contest was back in 1991 in Brussels when Becker won in straight sets; their last meeting was on hard court in the semi-finals of last year's Japan Open which Chang won.

''I get the feeling that ever since Sampras secured the No 1 spot, he has lost a bit of edge," Becker said. "He has had enough. He has had a dream year. But he can't just produce that extra 10 per cent now. But if Chang can beat Sampras four and four, he must be playing extremely well."

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