On this day: Gustavo Kuerten tops Andre Agassi for double delight


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On this day: Gustavo Kuerten tops Andre Agassi for double delight

In 2000, the Masters Cup moved from Germany after ten years and found a new home at Pavilhao Atlantico in Lisbon, Portugal. The tournament took place from November 28 until December 3, gathering 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 no. 1 position, with the Russian holding everything in his hands, at least on paper.

Marat opened the round-robin action with triumphs over Alex Corretja and Lleyton Hewitt while Andre Agassi beat Kuerten in the first match. At that point, Safin needed just one more win to seal the year-end no. 1 title but lost the last group match to Pete Sampras and also the semi-final clash against Agassi, failing to take a set in those encounters.

On the other hand, Kuerten was in a clear but almost impossible situation after that opening loss, having to win the next four clashes and hope that Safin would lose all the remaining ones to pass him and finish the year as the top-ranked player.

Guga passed the group stage with victories over Magnus Norman and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, coming from behind to oust Pete Sampras in the semis and setting the final meeting with Andre Agassi. On December 3, Kuerten toppled the American 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to win the Masters Cup title and overcome Marat Safin in the rankings by slim 75 points!

The match lasted two hours and six minutes and the Brazilian held his nerve to repel all seven break chances and steal rival's serve once in each set to prevail in straight 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 as the leading player, ending the domination of the USA that had lasted from 1992 and helping Brazil to become only the fifth country since 1973 that had given a year-end no.

1 player following Romania, USA, Sweden, and Czechoslovakia! Gustavo fired 19 aces and his first serve made the most significant difference in the match, feeding him with a lot of free points and allowing him to kick off the rally just like he would want.

Agassi had to work harder to earn points and couldn't hold the pressure and reach at least one tie break or take Kuerten's serve and prolong some of those sets. Kuerten blasted 35 service winners while Agassi stayed on 27, losing the edge in the backhand exchanges and also at the net where Gustavo had the upper hand.

A younger player had the advantage from the court, hitting 50 winners and reducing Andre to around 15, although the American had a fewer number of unforced errors. That wasn't enough to keep him safe, though, suffering in the shortest and mid-range rallies and missing a chance to lift his first Masters Cup trophy since 1990.

The Brazilian broke at 15 in the opening game and fended off four break points in the fourth game to go 3-1 in front and settle into a nice rhythm. Agassi saved a break chance in the next game to stay in contention and both players served well until the end of the set, with no more opportunities for the returners.

Kuerten claimed the opener with a crosscourt forehand winner in game ten to create the lead and grab the necessary momentum before the rest of the match. Andre defended a break point at the beginning of the second set, eager to avoid the first set scenario and with a chance to move ahead in game two, denied by another strong serve from the Brazilian.

It was Gustavo's turn to make some damage on the return at 2-2, breaking at love to forge the lead when Andre sent a backhand long. The American was in a tough position again at 2-4, having to play against three break chances and saving them all to remain within one break deficit.

Out of sudden, he had the opportunity to get back on the scoreboard, creating a break opportunity at 4-5 when Gustavo served for the set. Nonetheless, the Brazilian repelled it with a service winner, firing two additional aces to close the game and jump into a massive two sets to love advantage, getting closer and closer to the finish line.

With no further room for errors, Agassi held at love at the start of the third set and created a break chance in the second game, rejected by another ace from Kuerten who clinched the game after a few more deuces and remained unbroken.

The pivotal moment came in game five when Andre hit a double fault to hand the serve away, allowing Gustavo to serve for the title at 5-4. A volley winner gave the crowd favorite a match point, crossing the finish line with another service winner that secured one of the biggest titles of his career and enabled him to finish the season as the year-end no. 1.