In 2000, Tennis Masters Cup moved from Germany after 10 years and it found a new home at Pavilhão Atlântico in Lisbon, Portugal. The tournament was held from November 28 until December 3 and it gathered the best players in the world, including Marat Safin, Pete Sampras, and Gustavo Kuerten.
Besides the fact they competed for the last and one of the biggest titles of the season, Safin and Kuerten were also involved in the battle for the year-end number 1 position, and it was the Russian who had everything in his hands. He opened the round robin action with wins over Alex Corretja and Lleyton Hewitt, while Kuerten was beaten by Andre Agassi in the first match.
At that point, Safin needed just one more win to seal the year-end number 1 position, but he lost the last group match to Pete Sampras and also the semi-final clash with Agassi, without winning a set. On the other hand, Kuerten was in a clear but almost impossible situation after that opening loss, having to win the next 4 matches and to hope that Safin will lose all the remaining encounters in order to pass him and finish the year as the best-ranked player.
Guga passed the group stage with wins over Magnus Norman and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and he came from behind to oust Pete Sampras in the semis, setting the final clash with Andre Agassi. On December 3, Guga toppled the American by 6-4 6-4 6-4 to win the Masters Cup title and overcome Marat Safin in the rankings by 75 points! The match lasted 2 hours and 6 minutes and the Brazilian held his nerve to save all 7 break points and steal rival's serve once in each set to prevail in 3 sets and start a huge celebration in front of many Brazilian fans that supported him from start to finish.
Kuerten became the first South American who finished the season atop, ending the American domination that lasted from 1992, and Brazil was only the 5th country since 1973 that gave a year-end number 1 player, after Romania, USA, Sweden, and Czechoslovakia.
Gustavo fired 19 aces and his first serve made the biggest difference in the match, allowing him a lot of free points and to set up the rally just like he wanted. Agassi had to work harder to earn points and he couldn't hold the pressure and send any of the sets into a tie break, or to break Kuerten at least once and prolong the match.
Brazilian broke at 15 in the opening game of the match and he fends off 4 break points in the 4th game to go 3-1 in front. Agassi saved a break point in game 5 to stay in contention and both players served well until the end of the set, with no more break chances.
Kuerten claimed the opener with a cross court forehand winner in game 10 to create the lead, and this gave him the momentum before the rest of the match. Andre saved a break point at the start of the second set, keen to avoid the first set scenario, and he had a break chance in game 2, only to be denied by another strong serve from the Brazilian.
It was Gustavo's turn to make some damage on the return in game 5, and he broke at love to gain a 3-2 lead when Andre sent a backhand long. The American was in a really tough position again in game 7, having to play against 3 break points, but he saved them all to stay within one break deficit.
Out of sudden, he had a chance to get back on the scoreboard, with a break point in game 10 when Kuerten served for the set, but the Brazilian repelled it with a service winner, firing 2 additional aces to close the game and jump into a massive 2 sets to 0 lead, getting closer and closer to the finish line.
With no further room for errors, Agassi held at love at the start of the final set and he created a break point in the second game, rejected by another ace from Kuerten, who clinched the game after few more deuces to remain unbroken.
The pivotal moment came in game 5 when Andre double faulted to hand his serve away, and Kuerten performed well in the next couple of service games to serve for the title in game 10. A volley winner gave him a match point and he crossed the finish line with another service winner, one of the most important in his career, to lift one of the biggest titles of his career and become the best player in the world.
Year-end Top 10 players in 2000: