Hewitt in sight of No 1 spot

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The slump of Gustavo Kuerten's shoulders said it all yesterday as he trudged off court after losing to Juan Carlos Ferrero. Out of sorts and out of form, he is out of the running to retain the Masters Cup and will probably relinquish the No 1 crown to Lleyton Hewitt in the next 24 hours.

The Brazilian gave a lacklustre, error-strewn performance as the young Spaniard ­ who is nicknamed "the mosquito" ­ buzzed around him, winning the first set 7-6 on a tie-break and racing through the second 6-2.

Also paying the price for playing well below par is Andre Agassi, whose hopes of a semi-final place evaporated when he was defeated 6-3, 6-4 by France's Sebastien Grosjean. Agassi, who won the Australian Open at the start of the season, said it was a disappointing end to the year. Grosjean set himself up for a semi-final encounter tomorrow against Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who beat Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia 6-3, 6-4.

Ivanisevic, due to play Ferrero today for a place in the other semi-final against Hewitt, was characteristically frank. "I don't remember the last time someone kicked my behind so bad," he said. "It was like he was the driver and I was the co-pilot, and we were driving on a one-way street to Russia, not Croatia."

Kafelnikov's victory was the final nail for Kuerten. The 25-year-old Brazilian was unrecognisable from the man who came from behind to clinch the tournament last year and went on to win six titles this year.

Hewitt, just eight points behind him in the Champions Race, will overtake him if he reaches Sunday's final ­ or if he beats his fellow Australian Pat Rafter and Kuerten loses to Kafelnikov in the two last round robin matches to be played today.