Kafelnikov keeps huge prize in his sights

Tennis
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The Independent Online
Tennis

There will be a new champion at the Grand Slam Cup to claim the biggest cash prize in tennis. The semi-final line-up emerged yesterday when Yevgeny Kafelnikov rallied to beat Jacco Eltingh 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and he will face Goran Ivanisevic. Kafelnikov and the other semi-finalists are guaranteed $431,250 (pounds 287,500) while the winner of the tournament will collect $1.625m (pounds 1.1m).

In the second semi-final today, Boris Becker plays Todd Martin, who also reached this stage last year. None of the four semi-finalists has won the richest tournament in the world, which offers prize-money of $6m (pounds 4m) to the 16 participants with the best records from the four Grand Slam events in a year - the Australian, French and US Opens, and Wimbledon.

Ivanisevic reached the last four for the third time in his career on a walkover when the world No1, Pete Sampras, withdrew on Thursday with an inflamed knee. Sampras, who won the inaugural tournament in 1990, had been the only former champion still in contention.

With the departure of Sampras, Becker is the highest-ranked semi-finalist, and the German seems favourite to take the title. Already one of the most successful players on indoor surfaces, the No 4-ranked Becker has recovered his winning touch in recent weeks. He won the ATP World Championship in Frankfurt last month and has looked impressive on the fast surface in Munich's Olympic Hall.

"I usually had my best performances in Frankfurt the last couple of years - reaching the final last year, winning it three years ago, winning it again a couple of weeks ago. It's the first time I kept my form over the two-week time off I had between Frankfurt and Munich," Becker said. "I guess it's because of my serve. I don't remember ever serving like I've been doing the last three to four weeks."

Byron Black felt its force in the quarter-finals when he was beaten by 17 Becker aces. "I feel on both serves I'm able to hit aces on all four corners, and that's very helpful. It puts the other guy under a lot of pressure," Becker said.

He said Munich's altitude makes the balls travel faster and gives him an advantage, while other players might be having problems adjusting to the conditions. "I live here. I practice every day here, so I'm used to that kind of playing."

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