Friendship went just so far in the ATP Tour World Championship.
Alex Corretja lost the first two sets and then came roaring back to beat Carlos Moya, 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-5, in an all-Spanish final Sunday. Corretja's victory over his good friend in the season-ending event avenged his loss to Moya in the final of the French Open.
"Carlos, I'm sorry, I know how you feel right now," Corretja said.
The four-hour match was the longest final on the tour this year and worth $1.36 million. It lifted Corretja three places to No. 3 in the year's final computer rankings, a career high.
"I was very strong mentally, even when I was two sets down I was still thinking that I could win the match," Corretja said, hugging the glass trophy. "I learned a lot from the defeat in Paris."
Corretja said he also kept thinking of the 1984 final of the French Open, when Ivan Lendl, his tennis role model, came back from two sets down to defeat John McEnroe.
Moya, who squandered a 3-1 lead in the fifth set, collected $660,000 and will finish the year ranked fifth. He won two titles in 1998. It was the first all-Spanish final in the history of the event and the first Spanish triumph since Manuel Orantes won what was then called the Masters in 1976 in Houston.
Corretja said he was dedicating the victory to his recently deceased uncle and aunt.
Corretja finally gained his first break when he hit a deep-angled forehand winner to take a 3-1 lead in the third set.
"That was the key of the match," Moya said. "He started playing better and better and I wasn't able to use my chances."
Corretja's advantage did not last long, however, ending in a double fault in the next game. Moya saved another break point with an ace to hold for 4-4.
Corretja, who had upset top-ranked Pete Sampras in the semifinals, was in trouble again in the 11th game, but hit a sizzling backhand passing shot down the line to hold serve. In the next game, Moya's forehand sailed into the net, giving Corretja the set.
A double fault by Moya gave Corretja a 5-3 lead and he served out the fourth set.
Corretja fell behind, 3-1, in the fifth, but broke back. A forehand by Moya that sailed long gave Corretja another break, a 5-4 lead and a chance to serve out the match. He wasted one match point when Moya hit a volley winner after a long rally and then dropped his serve. But Moya could not hold serve either.
"It was the first time in my life that I come back after two sets down," Corretja said.
Corretja's first win over Moya in four matches this year earned him the ninth career title and the fifth of 1998.
"I was so close and I had many chances. But he played better on big points," said Moya.
He beat Corretja in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo tournament, before winning the French. At the U.S. Open, Moya also beat Corretja before losing in the semifinals.
Coming into this elite tournament that brings together the top eight players of the year, Moya had lost all five of his indoor matches of the year. He had not reached a final on any other surface than clay.
But he seems to thrive in the event, having reached the semifinals in his first appearance last year.
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The Top 10
Alex Corretja will end the 1998 season No. 3 in the world when the final ATP Tour rankings are released today.
1. Peter Sampras
2. Marcelo Rios
3. Alex Corretja
4. Patrick Rafter
5. Carlos Moya
6. Andre Agassi
7. Tim Henman
8. Karol Kucera
9. Greg Rusedski
10. Richard Krajicek