The player of the year will meet the player of the decade for the ATP Tour World Championship title, when Andre Agassi faces Pete Sampras on Sunday.
Agassi rallied in the second set today to beat No. 2 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), in one semifinal of the season-ending tournament. In the other match, Sampras shed some of the rust he had shown earlier this week in ousting home crowd favorite Nicolas Kiefer, 6-3, 6-3.
"One of the best servers in the world against one of the best returners," Sampras said of the all-American showdown. "I hope we can play tennis worthy of a great final."
Agassi won the French Open and U.S. Open this year and is assured of finishing at No. 1, ending Sampras's record six-year streak.
"It's not good for me just to get to the finals," Agassi said. "I want to be the best."
The $3.6 million tournament features the top eight players in the world.
With girlfriend Steffi Graf watching, Agassi trailed 5-2 and was two points from dropping the second set, before he rallied to tie it, 5-5. The match ended with two straight errors by Kafelnikov in the tiebreaker.
"I felt the chances of winning the second set had dropped considerably," Agassi said.
Kafelnikov said he played a poor game at 5-3, allowing Agassi back into the match.
"Andre was very strong from the baseline," the Russian said. "He had an answer to every shot I was coming up with."
Agassi's 600th career singles victory put him in the ATP final for the second time. Of active players, only Sampras (656) and Thomas Muster (622) have more singles wins.
Sampras is coming off a three-month layoff because of hip and back injuries and has dropped to No. 5. He will be playing his sixth final at the championship, which he has won four times.
Sampras finished with 13 aces against Kiefer, ranked No. 6 in the world. Kiefer double-faulted twice in giving Sampras three match points.
In the round-robin portion of the event, Agassi beat Sampras, 6-2, 6-2. But Sampras leads the series, 16-11, and has won the previous three matches this year, including the Wimbledon final.
"I don't want to lose twice in a row, and hopefully I can make it more of a match," Sampras said.