Martin slams local hero

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TODD MARTIN spoiled the party of the local hero Boris Becker in Munich yesterday, beating the German in four sets to reach the final of the Grand Slam Cup.

Becker, cheered on by a crowd of 11,000, mustered his resources during a see-saw fourth set, but Martin held on to win, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 at the $6m tournament. "I think it was one of my best matches ever. I had to play fantastic to beat Becker at home under these conditions," Martin said afterwards.

The American faces the winner of the other semi-final, which was taking place last night between the Croatian, Goran Ivanisevic and Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov, in today's final at what is the world's richest tournament - the first prize is worth $1.625m.

Earlier in the tournament, he lanky 6ft-6in American had taken advantage of his powerful serve on the super-fast carpet surface to reach the semi- finals as the lowest-ranked player at No. 18. His way into the final four in a field which included the world's 16 highest-ranked players, had been paved by injuries to the Americans, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, and other leading players who were forced out by injury.

Becker's fourth set rally after an early break sent the match into a tie-break in which Martin used a perfect lob to set up match point after three hours and 25 minutes.

After winning the first set with a single break, it appeared that Becker, the overwhelming favourite, would have an easy time reaching the final as expected. But Martin turned the match around in the following set, whistling returns past the fo German world No 4, who struggled with his serve throughout the match.

"After that I gained a lot of confidence," Martin said. "Luckily he wasn't getting his first serve in." The American, who had reached the No 5 position in the world rankings in 1994 before slumping, took control of the match with a break that left him 3-2 up in the final set, but that was when Becker began to scream at himself.

Martin had teamed up with Pete Sampras in the doubles last week as the United States overcame a partisan home crowd to capture the Davis Cup in Moscow. And yesterday he was forced to overcome a crowd cheering wildly for his opponent as Becker exploited two of his errors to break back in the next game to level up at 3-3.

The German, famed for throwing himself about the court, landed on the carpet four times in the final set as he chased Martin's shots. He also saved four break points at 4-4 to send the match into a tie break. But that was not enough, and Martin advanced.