Tennis: Becker delivers on home territory

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The Independent Online
Boris Becker, roared on by a boisterous home crowd, served 24 aces to pull off a 7-6, 7-6 victory over Pete Sampras at the ATP Tour World Championship here yesterday.

Becker, the defending champion, advanced to the semi-finals after bringing his record to 2-0 in the round-robin section. Sampras, like the German a two-time champion in the end-of-season event, dropped to 1-1. It was Becker's second victory over Sampras within a month, the German having beaten him in the final of the Eurocard Open last month in Stuttgart. Becker's win delayed Sampras from becoming the fourth active player to register 500 career match victories.

In the first set, Becker was the first in trouble and had to battle hard to avoid falling behind. He saved two break points in the second game, another in the fourth, and three more in the 10th, coming from 0-40 behind to turn the set his way. Sampras faced only one break point in the first set, in the third game.

With the 15,000 capacity crowd in the Europe Hall stomping their feet and roaring Becker on, Sampras screamed in frustration when Becker pulled even at deuce by hitting a winner on the line.

Sampras appeared on the way to evening the score when he broke Becker for a 5-4 lead in the second. But he served two double-faults in the next game, fought off two break points and finally succumbed when Becker hit another low return that Sampras could not get over the net. Becker again prevailed in the tie-break, hitting a spectacular backhand passing shot to clinch the match after 2hr 9min.

Earlier, the new, Samurai hairstyle of Goran Ivanisevic did not help him against Michael Chang, who rallied to outlast the Croat, 6-7, 7-6, 6-1. But the match was irrelevant for the tournament as Ivanisevic was already assured of a place in the semi-finals while Chang, last year's runner-up, had lost both his first two matches and had no chance of advancing. Chang at least picked up $100,000 (pounds 62,500) for his win.

The other semi-finalist from that group will be known today, when Thomas Muster plays Richard Krajicek.

Andre Agassi, booed off court after a dismal performance, was fined pounds 30,000 for failing to appear at two pre-event functions. ATP officials announced yesterday that Agassi, who pulled out of the rest of the tournament because of the illness, had been fined five per cent of his Tour prize money for the year.

In New York, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez secured berths in the quarter-finals of the WTA Tour Championship at Madison Square Garden. The third-seeded Sanchez Vicario withstood the hard-serving Brenda Schultz- McCarthy for a 6-4, 7-6 win and the fourth-seeded Martinez overcame a sore left hamstring to survive a three-set scare against the lowest-ranked player in the field, Judith Wiesner.

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