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EDITIONS

Monday, 11 November, 2002, 05:05 GMT
Hewitt faces dual threat
Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt is aiming to end his season on a high note
If Lleyton Hewitt is to hang on to his position as Champions Race number one, the Australian is likely to need all his trademark fighting qualities.

The Wimbledon champion's 88-point lead over Andre Agassi may look fairly comfortable, but the draw for the end-of-season Masters Cup has been cruel.

  Champions Race
1. Lleyton Hewitt 767
2. Andre Agassi 679
3. Marat Safin 569
4. JC Ferrero 468
5. Carlos Moya 466
6. Roger Federer 458
7. Jiri Novak 447

He is joined in the Red Group by Marat Safin, who thrashed Hewitt in Paris just over a week ago, and Carlos Moya, who has won their last three contests.

If he is to survive the group, he will need to rediscover the form which saw him take the Wimbledon title and then prosper on the American hardcourt swing.

The 21-year-old has been a rather subdued presence in recent weeks, not least in the Paris Masters final against Safin in which he suffered his first 6-0 reverse.

But Hewitt is a fiercely proud man and nothing is likely to bring the best out of him more than the challenge of one of his childhood idols.

Despite missing out on the Grand Slams, Agassi has been masterful this season.

At 32, he has played four fewer tournaments (16) than his younger rival but has reached at least the quarter-finals in 12 of them.

While 30-year-old Pete Sampras ponders retirement, Agassi has been plotting a way to balance family life with another two years of top-level tennis.

However, if he is to win the Race, he is likely to have to win the season-ender for the first time since 1990.

He certainly appears to have the easier route to the last four, having been drawn in the Gold Group with Juan Carlos Ferrero, Roger Federer and Jiri Novak.

And Hewitt knows that Agassi has the ability and temperament to upset his plans.

"Age doesn't come into it - not if your name is Andre Agassi," the Australian said.

Marat Safin
Safin demolished Hewitt at the Paris Masters

"A lot of guys wouldn't be able to do it at 32 but he is moving as well as ever. It is gonna be tough to finish number one the way that Andre has been playing."

Safin proved in Paris that he has the ability to win any tournament he cares to enter and were he to double his titles for the season in Shanghai, it would go a long way to proving that he also has the temperament.

After a torrid 2001, the charismatic Russian has set about achieving a degree of consistency this year.

He has succeeded but the lack of titles was nonetheless a disappointment for a player blessed with such a powerful all-round game.

The title duck broken, though, and Safin joins Agassi as one of the favourites to clinch glory in Shanghai.

And Hewitt will have to be at his pugnacious best if he is to finish 2002 as he did last year - as end-of-season number one and Masters Cup champion.

All the action from the end-of-season Masters Cup

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