Kuerten in bid for No 1 spot

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Two-time French Open Champion and top seed Gustavo Kuerten set out to reclaim his lead in the season's race to No 1, defeating American Chris Woodruff in the second round of the $2.95 million Paris Masters today.

Two-time French Open Champion and top seed Gustavo Kuerten set out to reclaim his lead in the season's race to No 1, defeating American Chris Woodruff in the second round of the $2.95 million Paris Masters today.

Kuerten eliminated his tenacious American opponent 6-3, 7-6 (0).

The victory comes after Kuerten lost to Australia's Patrick Rafter in Lyon last week, enabling Russia's Marat Safin to jump into the No. 1 slot in the ATP Champions Race 2000.

Safin edged out Kuerten, after a 16-week run as leader of the Champions Race, with his victory in St. Petersburg over the weekend.

Down 1-4 in the second set of Tuesday's match, Kuerten steadily took control with a string of aces and strong strokes fired from the baseline as his American opponent got a workout.

After serving out two games in the second set with high-speed aces, Kuerten won the tiebreak with an ace, not letting Woodruff score a single point. The second set ended 7-6 (0).

Players in Paris are battling for the remaining two berths in the elite year-end Masters Cup, in Lisbon, Portugal, Nov. 27- Dec. 3.

The six who have qualified so far are the four Grand Slam winners - Kuerten, Safin, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras - plus Magnus Norman and Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Stoking his own ambitions to finish the year as No. 1, Olympic gold medalist Kafelnikov defeated Sweden's Magnus Gustafsson in another second round match Tuesday.

The No. 4 seeded Russian eliminated his Swedish opponent after two tightly paced sets, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

A solid force on the court, Kafelnikov came back from a 1-4 deficit in the second set to win the match with a well-placed crosscourt forehand.

Ranked fifth in the Champions Race 2000, the 26-year-old Russian became the sixth player to qualify for the season-ending Masters Cup championship, after reaching the semifinals in St. Petersburg last week.

Feeling the pressure, a stoic and focused Kafelnikov snapped twice at the referee for unsympathetic line calls, drawing hisses from the French fans.

Kafelnikov, a four-time winner of the Kremlin Cup, was slightly more aggressive than his Swedish opponent at net but both men handled the matches' hard-hitting volleys by holding tight to the baseline.

In other action, No. 9 seed Tim Henman lost his bid to enter the year-end championship, when he was defeated in a second round match by Spain's Albert Costa, 6-4, 6-4.

Henman, who needed to reach the semifinals in Paris to qualify for one of the two remaining spots at the Masters Cup, lost the match on an out-of-bounds backhand service return. Henman had beaten Costa in their last three clashes this year.

The Paris tournament, formerly the Paris Open, is the last of the nine-event Tennis Masters Series, the most important events after the Grand Slams.

Sampras is skipping the Paris tournament.

Agassi, the defending champion, withdrew from the semifinals of last week's Lyon Grand Prix with an injured hip. He is having further tests to see if he can play in Paris. Tuesday morning, before scheduled matches started, Agassi was practicing on a court at the Paris turf, an ATP official said.

Results from the Paris Masters Series tennis tournament:

Singles First Round Karol Kucera, Slovakia, def. Gianluca Pozzi, Italy, 4-6, 7-5 (6).

Second Round Albert Costa, Spain, def. Tim Henman (9), Britain, 6-4, 6-4. Yevgeny Kafelnikov (4), Russia, def Magnus Gustafsson, Sweden, 7-6 (6), 6-4. Gustavo Kuerten (1), Brazil, def. Chris Woodruff, USA, 6-3, 7-6 (0).

Comments