In an attempt to nip any bashing in the bud....
Hewitt, Agassi, Safin lose at Tennis Masters Cup
November 13, 2002
SHANGHAI, China (Ticker) - The underdogs had their day at the Tennis Masters Cup.
The top three players in the world were upset in round-robin action Wednesday at the $3.75 million season-ending event.
In the Red Group, Spain's Carlos Moya defeated world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, 6-4, 7-5, after French Open champion Albert Costa of Spain topped third-ranked Marat Safin of Russia, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
In between, Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic rallied past No. 2 Andre Agassi, 7-5, 6-1, in a Gold Group matchup.
Moya beat Hewitt for the fourth straight time this year and advanced to 5-2 lifetime against the Australian. With a 2-0 record in the Red Group, he advanced to the semifinals.
"I beat the No. 1 player in the world, No. 3 in straight sets, both of them," Moya said. "So this is a very nice feeling."
"He's playing unbelievable tennis at the moment, as he's shown numerous times during the year, not only on clay, but also on hard court now as well," Hewitt said. "So, you know, it's definitely not bad loss losing to Carlos Moya."
The 26-year-old Spaniard reached the semifinals in his previous two appearances in the ATP's season-ending event. He lost a five-set final to countryman Alex Corretja in 1998 and was a semifinalist in 1997.
After finishing out of the top 10 each of the last three years, Moya has returned to the form that saw him win the 1998 French Open by claiming four titles this season.
"I think my level right now is very high," Moya said. "I cannot compare how it was in 1998 because it was four or five years ago, but I have been working very hard."
Making his Tennis Masters Cup debut, Novak beat Agassi for the first time in five encounters. He never had taken a set from the American before winning five straight games to win the opening set. The 27-year-old Czech claimed 11 of the last 12 games to move to the top of the Gold Group.
The two players were to have squared off in the final of the Tennis Masters Series in Madrid last month, but Novak defaulted the championship match because of a right groin injury sustained in the semifinals. It was Agassi's tour-leading fifth tournament victory of the year. Novak is the only player entered here without a title this season.
The losses by Hewitt and Agassi might affect the race to finish the year No. 1. With his round-robin victory over Costa on Tuesday, Hewitt took a 108-point lead over Agassi in the 2002 ATP Champions Race.
The 21-year-old Hewitt has led the race every week since July 8 after winning his first Wimbledon title. He has owned the No. 1 ranking on the ATP Entry System every week since November 19, 2001 after winning last year's Tennis Masters Cup title in Sydney.
In order to become the oldest year-end No. 1, the 32-year-old Agassi must win the title, with Hewitt losing in the semifinals with at least one group defeat. Agassi has upcoming matches against Roger Federer and Juan Carlos Ferrero while Hewitt next plays Safin.
"I tried my best and I was beaten," Agassi said. "I don't know about the (ranking) numbers or anything but it is not an easy turnaround for me to play a disappointing match, to lose a match and then come back and play the next day.
"I have always felt that once I lose, I deserve to be out of the tournament, so it is a difficult situation for me, but I will just have to see it as another opportunity, as another chance."
Costa won in 2 hours, 7 minutes to snap a six-match losing streak and claim his first win in three matches at the season-ending tournament. In 1998, he entered the event as an alternate for an injured Marcelo Rios and lost to Greg Rusedski and Corretja in the round robin.
"Sometimes matches can be decided in just a couple of points, and I fought and fought," said Costa, a claycourt specialist. "Fighting is easy for me. Maybe I am fresher than the other guys here. Not so confident, but more fresh because I have played fewer matches. I had a back injury and did not get wins indoors this season."
Costa next plays Moya. Hewitt was asked whether he thought Moya would help his friend in their match in order to help Costa move into the semifinals.
"I didn't even think of that," he said. "I hope not. You know, it would definitely ... be bad for the game of tennis, I think, if there was anything, and I know Carlos pretty well, and he's a great guy."
With two losses, Safin, the Australian Open runner-up, does not appear to be heading towards his second TMC semifinal. The 21-year-old Russian arrived in Shanghai fresh off his first title of the year at the TMS event in Paris two weeks ago but has been complaining of fatigue.
Even if he does not advance past the round-robin stage, Safin's season will extend two more weeks as Russia plays France in the Davis Cup final later this month.
"I should have won today. I lost my game completely and I couldn't get it back," he said. "Even with 16 aces, it was not good enough. You cannot have every day perfect in your life. It's like a normal person has bad days, good days. This week I had two bad days in a row."
Under the round-robin format, the eight players in the field are divided into two groups. Each player meets the other members of the group once, with those with the best records advancing to the semifinals.
A round-robin win is worth 20 ranking points and $120,000.