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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 15:46 GMT
Agassi defeat hands Hewitt top spot
Ferrero and Agassi
Ferrero will play Novak for a place in the last four
Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5 2-6 7-6 (8/6) Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi crashed out of the Masters Cup to hand the end of year world number one ranking to Lleyton Hewitt.

Agassi had to win the tournament to have any chance of moving above Hewitt, but Ferrero ended that hope despite being outplayed for much of this thrilling match.

Afterwards Agassi was unable to express his disappointment.

"I wouldn't know how to communicate it," he said.

  Gold group standings
1 Federer W2 L0 Sets+3
2 Novak W1 L1 Sets+1
3 Ferrero W1 L1 Sets-1
4 Agassi W0 L2 Sets-3

Ferrero now goes on to face Jiri Novak, with the winner progressing to the semi-finals, while Agassi will wonder what might have been when he takes on Roger Federer in a dead match.

Hewitt, meanwhile, joins the elite group of Connors, Lendl and Sampras, who have held onto the world number one ranking for a whole year.

Just as against Novak in his first match, Agassi was at times completely dominant, but moments of weakness caused his downfall.

He came out with all guns blazing from the start, but his timing was slightly off and he was firing as many errors as winners.

Ferrero achieved the only break to take the first set 7-5, but then Agassi hit a purple patch.
Andre Agassi
Agassi now faces Federer in a dead match

Ferrero was powerless as the American fired breathtaking winners from all sides to level the match taking the set 6-2.

But Agassi's level slipped a little in the third set, and even though he dominated he was unable to force a break.

So the American's bid for glory came down to a thrilling final set tie-break.

Despite taking the first mini-break, Agassi found himself facing three match-points following a double-fault.

All three were saved with cavalier winners, but, after pushing a forehand just too long, the game was up when Agassi again double-faulted.

With his season effectively over, Agassi was already looking forward.

"Next year I will approach with expectations of it being better," he said.

"The key will be consistency."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Iain Carter
"Agassi played all-or-nothing tennis"
Andre Agassi
"I didn't expect to come out and play a bad match"
All the action from the end-of-season Masters Cup

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