Playing with abandon, fourth-seeded Yannick Noah upset top-seeded Ivan Lendl, 6-3, 7-5, Saturday to advance to a title-match showdown against Guillermo Vilas in the $615,000 Shearson Lehman Brothers Tournament of Champions at Forest Hills, N.Y.
Earlier, the 33-year-old Vilas had crushed fellow Argentine Martin Jaite, 6-3, 6-3.
Vilas, who owns an 8-1 career record over Noah, will meet the 25-year-old Frenchman for the $80,000 first prize today on the same West Side Tennis Club court where Vilas won the 1977 U.S. Open. However, this is only his third tournament since taking a seven-month layoff, and he is looking for his first title in three years.
Saturday, Noah was completely in control against Lendl. "I played my natural type of game," he said. "I hit a lot of high balls and short ones. I play the way he doesn't like, which is my natural game."
Lendl: "I just couldn't do anything with the ball . . . and I did everything wrong. Noah played better in every aspect of the game."
Vilas was just as devastating against Jaite. The only real problem he encountered was putting the final stamp on his victory, requiring eight match points.
From 3-3 in the opening set, Vilas ran off seven games in a row, carrying him to 4-0 in the second set. During that run, Vilas gave up only 11 points.
"At the beginning, he was playing better than me, and I hung in there," Vilas said. "From then on, I started putting more pressure on him. I kind of cruised through the second set. . . . I just couldn't put it away."
Vilas, ranked 41st in the world, and Jaite, ranked 16th, had met only once before, with Jaite winning, 6-0, 6-1, at Indianapolis last year.
Top-seeded Chris Evert Lloyd dropped a first-set tiebreaker to Laura Gildemeister in the semifinals of a $150,000 tournament at Houston and then didn't lose another game for a 6-7, 6-0, 6-0 victory.
In the other semifinal, second-seeded Kathy Rinaldi, trailing, 2-4, in the second set, rallied with two consecutive service breaks to end Pam Casale's upset bid en route to a 6-4, 6-4 victory.
Rinaldi and Lloyd will meet today for the $30,000 first prize.
Lloyd, untested in three previous matches, took a 4-0 lead in the first set against Gildemeister but lost her serve four times over the rest of the set to force a tiebreaker.
Gildemeister of Peru took a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker, which she eventually won, 8-6.
At Osaka, Japan, Stefan Edberg of Sweden will meet countryman Bjorn Borg in the men's singles final today, while Martina Navratilova will face fellow American Bonnie Gadusek in the women's singles final of the $200,000 Gunze World tournament.
Edberg, ranked sixth in the world, defeated Johan Kriek, 6-3, 6-4, and Borg rallied to beat Scott Davis, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Navratilova, the No. 1 women's player, beat Pam Shriver, 6-3, 7-6, while Gadusek defeated Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5.