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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sampras Wreaks Revenge by Beating Safin

LISBON, Portugal — Pete Sampras, playing aggressively from the opening shot, beat Marat Safin 6-3, 6-2 on Friday to reach the semifinals of the Masters Cup and take a measure of revenge against the player who beat him in the final of the U.S. Open.

The defeat prevented Safin from claiming the No. 1 ranking for the year, but the 20-year-old Russian can still earn it if he beats Andre Agassi in Friday's semifinals.

Sampras, a former No. 1, had to beat his likely successor to reach the semifinals of the season-ending tournament that brings together the top eight players in the world and he came out roaring, winning 12 of the first 13 points.

Attacking Safin's second serve, volleying effectively and covering the court well, Sampras charged to a 3-0 lead to take control of the match.

He broke Safin's serve for a 3-2 lead in the second set and again to make it 5-2.

Sampras faced his first break point after Safin had saved a match point with a volley. But Sampras fired a service winner at 203 kilometers per hour to deuce and then whipped his seventh ace down the middle to win the match.

Safin had drubbed Sampras in three sets in the final of the U.S. Open in early September and Sampras was clearly eager to take some revenge.

"I was motivated, he's No. 1," Sampras said. "I played great. I wanted to chip and charge and be aggressive."

Sampras, the defending champion, is seeking to win the season-ending event for a record sixth time. He also finished as No. 1 in the world for a record six consecutive seasons between 1993 and 1998.

By winning Wimbledon this summer, Sampras gained a record 13th Grand Slam title. He is now No. 3 and cannot overtake Safin.

Safin, who leads the tour with seven titles this year, is making his first appearance in the elite event.

He had already been assured of a place in the semifinals because of the round-robin format. The eight players are divided into two groups, with the top two advancing to the semifinals.

Safin and Sampras both finished with 2-1 record in the Red Group, with Sampras winning first place.

Sampras will play the winner of the later match between the Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten and the Russian No. 5 seed Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who lost to Agassi on Friday. (See story, Page 23.)

Kuerten, Safin's only challenger for the No. 1 spot, needs to win the tournament and have the Russian eliminated Saturday to be able to claim the top ranking.