March 29, 1998
KEY BISCAYNE, March 28: Marcelo Rios and Andre Agassi, the hottest players on the ATP Tour this year, will meet in the final of the Lipton Championships with the world No 1 ranking on the line.
Rios, the world No 3, can end American Pete Sampras’ 102-week reign at the top of the rankings with a victory in Sunday’s final of the $4.6 million event.
The Chilean, who defeated Briton Tim Henman 6-2, 4-6, 6-0 to reach the final, has never played Agassi, the former world No 1, who cruised past eighth-seeded Spaniard Alex Corretja 6-4, 6-2.
Agassi has won 24 matches this year and appears to have recovered from a miserable 1997 with victories in two tournaments: San Jose and Scottsdale.Agassi, 27, won this event in 1990, 1995, and 1996 and reached the 1994 final before losing to Sampras. Now he has the chance to prevent Rios from unseating his compatriot.
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Two of the brightest teenagers in women’s tennis will meet for the first time when American Venus Williams faces Anna Kournikova of Russia in thefinal.
Williams, 17 and seeded 11th, upset top seed Martina Hingis of Switzerland for the second time this year in the semi-finals.
Kournikova, 16, continued her remarkable run through the draw with a three-set victory over eighth seed and two-time champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain.
Rios, 22, will be gunning for his eighth career singles title and his third title in one of the ATP Tour’s prestigious Super Nine events.
Last season, Rios prevailed at Monte Carlo for his first career Super Nine title and won the Super Nine Champions Cup at Indian Wells, California, two weeks ago.
In addition, Rios captured the title in Auckland, New Zealand, in January and was a finalist at the Australian Open.
By reaching the final, Rios is assured of at least the No 2 ranking, which is a career high for the Chilean.
He surrendered his first set of the tournament to Henman, but gave up only five points in the final set.
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