Originally created 07/12/98

Becker moves to brink of first and 50th

GSTAAD, Switzerland -- A semi-retired Boris Becker moved to the brink of winning a clay-court tournament, something he never did in nearly a dozen years as a fulltime player.

Becker on Saturday beat top-seeded Marcelo Rios of Chile 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) in the semifinals of the Swiss Open.

Becker's opponent in Sunday's final will be French Open finalist Alex Corretja, who outlasted Belgian Filip Dewulf 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3.

A victory would give Becker his 50th career singles title but his first on clay.

"Clay compared to the other surfaces is not my best," said Becker, the winner of six Grand Slams tournament. "But that doesn't mean I can't play on it."

Though ranked just 119 in the world, falling out of the top 100 this week for the first time in 13 years, the 30-year-old Becker defeated France's Cedric Pioline and the 1997 champion Felix Mantilla of Spain before ousting Rios.

"I'm very content and surprised," said Becker, whose last title dates back to the 1996 Grand Slam Cup. "I played a very good match against a very good player."


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