Hewitt and Lapentti reach first indoor final

Lleyton Hewitt sped past eighth-seeded Vincent Spadea of the United States 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday at the Lyon Grand Prix, to reach the final in his first appearance on the European indoor circuit.

Lleyton Hewitt sped past eighth-seeded Vincent Spadea of the United States 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday at the Lyon Grand Prix, to reach the final in his first appearance on the European indoor circuit.

Hewitt, ranked a career-high 27th, will meet sixth-seeded Nicolas Lapentti in the final, the Ecuadorian having once again fought back from a set down to beat Sweden's Magnus Gustafsson 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 in his semi-final.

"I'm a little surprised to find myself in the final," said Hewitt, who has only ever played two other indoor events, both in Singapore. "I'm less surprised to see Lapentti in the final."

Lapentti, however, is no indoor specialist himself and had never won a match on carpet before arriving in Lyon. The pair, who have never met, are each seeking their second career titles.

The 18-year-old Hewitt had little difficulty getting past Spadea, sweeping aside the sluggish American in 1 hour, 21 minutes to reach his fifth career final.

Still feeling the effects of his marathon quarterfinal match against top-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Spadea appeared sluggish and worn. "I got off to such a strong start and I'm sure he didn't feel like playing a long match," said Hewitt, whose performance in the French City strengthened his chances of replacing injured compatriot Patrick Rafter in Australia's Davis Cup final against France in Nice this December. "If he'd had an early break, it might have been a different match."

Spadea admitted his quarterfinal victory over Kafelnikov had cost him. "I was tired and I felt I was playing the same match as last night," Spadea said. "It didn't feel like I'd left the court at all.

"But it wasn't just my lack of form. Hewitt played really well today."

Hewitt, who dropped just one set on way to the final, may once again benefit from his opponent's fatigue in the final.

Lapentti has been made to work overtime for his place in his first career indoor final, rallying back from a set down in all four of his matches in Lyon this week. "I'm not 100 percent," acknowledged Lapentti, a career-high 14 in the world rankings. "I'm a little tired.

"Hewitt is a fighter who runs for the ball so I expect a long and difficult match tomorrow," said Lapentti, whose sudden run of indoor form ÿ after going 0-10 until a victory in his first round match at the Grand Slam Cup - has left him in contention for a place in the season-ending World Championships in Hannover in November. "But when you're in the final, you manage to find the energy somehow."

Meeting each other for the first time, Lapentti and Gustafsson cautiously probed each others' game for weaknesses in a tightly-played opening set without success, neither player managing a break.

Lapentti suddenly appeared ready to take control in the tiebreak, jumping out to a 4-0 lead. But the veteran Swede refused to buckle, sweeping the next five points on way to winning the tiebreak 7-5.

The loss did nothing to discourage Lapentti, who came back from a set down in all three of his earlier matches. The sixth seeded Ecuadorian's perseverance was finally rewarded in the second set with the first break of the match, as he took Gustafsson's serve to go up 5-3.

But the unflappable Swede immediately broke back, sending the set to a tiebreak, this time with Lapentti battling back from 3-1 down to prevail. The efforts of the two tiebreaks in a stuffy arena seemed to deflate the 32-year-old Swede, the oldest player in the tournament, with Lapentti jumping to a 4-1 lead in the final set and cruising to a comfortable win.

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