Originally created 11/28/98

Sampras in the semifinals



HANOVER, Germany -- While Pete Sampras savored his record sixth straight No. 1 ranking, Carlos Moya and Alex Corretja joined Sampras and Tim Henman Friday in the semifinals of the ATP Tour World Championship.

Moya, the French Open champion who had not won an indoor match all year until this tournament, beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-5, 7-5, while Corretja defeated Albert Costa 6-2, 6-4.

Sampras was idle Friday and had the opportunity to celebrate his unique accomplishment.

Moya is usually not much of a threat on indoor courts and prefers clay, the surface on which he won the French Open, and hard courts.

Although indoors, the ATP championship is played on a hard court and Moya has done well at this elite season-ending event, reaching the semifinals for the second consecutive year.

By avenging his semifinal loss to Kafelnikov last year, he ousted the Russian from the $3.5 million tournament that brings together the top players of the year.

"I was perhaps luckier in important moments," Moya said. "I had to be like a wall, put back every ball. I was mentally stronger than last year."

Moya, No. 4 in the world, will face Henman on Saturday. Henman is the first Briton to reach the semifinals in this event. Sampras plays Corretja.

Moya's first indoor victory of the season after five defeats came at the start of the round-robin portion, when he beat Karol Kucera. He lost to Sampras and finished behind him in one of the two four-man groups.

Greg Rusedski, a replacement for injured Andre Agassi, beat his British teammate Henman 6-2, 6-4.

Rusedski's hopes of making the semis vanished when Corretja beat Costa. The two Spaniards are friends and spent time together in recent weeks playing golf and skiing.

"I wanted to put the ball in the court because he was playing so badly," Corretja said. "The good thing for me was that he hadn't played in 25 days."

Sampras was assured finishing 1998 as No. 1 and breaking the record he shared with Jimmy Connors when Marcelo Rios withdrew because of a back injury. Rios was replaced by Costa.

Other players paid tribute to Sampras.

"It's amazing to be up there six years in a row," Moya said. "The way he's been playing here, he's just unbeatable. He's proved he is the best player ever and he is playing amazingly.

"I don't see anyone right now who can be No. 1 six years in a row."

Rusedski said Sampras has been playing "fabulous tennis" here.

"He looked like the No. 1 for the past 25 years easily," Rusedski said. "It's going to be more interesting if he can keep on going with that streak because he is a great player.

"He's not had the best year, but he still managed to finish No. 1, which is tremendous."

If Sampras wins this tournament for the fifth time, he will tie Ivan Lendl on the career list. Sampras won the event in 1991, 1994, 1996 and 1997.