Top seed Ivan Lendl beat Yannick Noah in a three-hour match today, and unseeded Emilio Sanchez defeated second-seeded Mats Wilander, to advance to the final of the Italian Open.
Lendl scored a 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) victory on the clay courts of Foro Italico, and Sanchez won, 6-3, 7-5.
The victory over Wilander was Sanchez's third upset in as many days. Friday, he ousted third-seeded Boris Becker and the day before he eliminated No. 12 Aaron Krickstein.
"Wilander was more difficult than Becker," said Sanchez, a 20-year-old from Madrid, "because he is one of the world's best on clay and he hits the ball long and high and that's very difficult to cope with."
Sanchez overcame a 3-2 deficit in the first set with a burst of aggressive tennis that won him six straight games. In the second set, he had three match points at 5-4, but Wilander survived with a diving volley and a crosscourt pass. But Sanchez broke Wilander's serve again and finished the match when Wilander hit long.
Lendl rallied to beat Noah in a match that produced stirring play and bad blood.
At 4-5 and 30-40 in the final set, Lendl saved Noah's only match point with an ace, which the linesman called out, but the umpire ruled in.
"I think I was robbed," Noah said. "The match-point call was so close. They always give those to the No. 1 player. . . . When the linesman shouted it was out, I didn't really hit the ball. I just couldn't believe the umpire gave the call he did."
Asked about the play, Lendl said, "My feeling is the ruling was right. He [Noah] barely even got his racket to the ball."
Lendl tied the set at 6-6. He broke Noah's serve on the eighth point of the tie breaker before clinching the match with a rocketing service winner.
"I thought I had lost this match early on, so I wasn't scared on the match point," said Lendl. "I just kept trying and trying and trying and in the end I deserved to win."
Noah started the match by breaking serve in the third, fifth and seventh games. Lendl, showing his frustration by throwing his racket at a chair, failed to return seven consecutive first serves by Noah. Then, by standing five yards behind his base line and firing risky crosscourt backhands, he broke Noah in the third game of the second set.
When Lendl took too long to return to the court after that game, Noah complained to the umpire, saying Lendl was also taking more than the allotted 30 seconds between serves. Noah and Lendl stood at the net shouting at each other before resuming play.
Asked what he said to Lendl, Noah joked, "I asked Ivan did he want to have dinner with me this evening and he said he did." Then he added, "He asked me what I had said earlier to the umpire, and I told him I didn't want to wait out on court while he was resting and getting ready to come on."
Lendl attributed the delays to racket changes because of broken strings.
"I think Noah's a nice guy, but he went completely crazy out there," Lendl said. "I wish these things hadn't happened, but I'm not going to let anybody dump anything on me."