Fourth-seeded Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina handed top-seeded Martina Navratilova her fourth straight tournament defeat Saturday to advance to the final of the $150,000 Italian Open against second-seeded Steffi Graf of West Germany.
The 16-year-old Sabatini played almost flawlessly in beating Navratilova, 7-6, 6-1, on slow clay at Rome's Foro Italico.
Navratilova, the world's top-ranked player, has now lost more matches this year than in all of 1986, when she dropped only three.
In her semifinal, the 17-year-old Graf overpowered third-seeded Helena Sukova of Czechoslovakia, 6-3, 6-3, to win her 26th straight match.
Sabatini, ranked ninth in the world, overcame a 2-5 deficit in the first set before a sellout crowd of 8,000.
"This is the best win I have ever had," she said. "I played with a lot of confidence. I knew I had a chance to win and I did everything perfectly."
Navratilova, who prefers faster surfaces, said: "I played too safe; there's no excuse. I should have won the first set, but I let it slip away. I left my best shots in the closet. In the second set, she was in total command."
Navratilova held two set points in the first set.
The first came in the eighth game, but Sabatini escaped with a service winner.
In the following game, with Navratilova serving for the set, Sabatini threw up a short lob for what appeared to be an easy overhead. But Navratilova failed to put the ball away, and Sabatini drilled a forehand passing shot down the line and went on to break serve.
"If I had just gotten that overhead . . . ," Navratilova said.
In New York, fourth-seeded Andres Gomez of Ecuador stunned top-seeded Boris Becker of West Germany before 14,145, the largest crowd in the 64-year history of Forest Hills.
His 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory put Gomez into the final of the $615,000 Tournament of Champions against second-seeded Yannick Noah of France
Noah, the defending champion, eliminated 12th-seeded Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia, 6-3, 7-5.
Gomez holds a 4-1 career edge over Noah. The winner of today's best-of-five-set final will receive $80,000.
Gomez utilized all of his clay-court tricks against Becker. His drop shots brought the two-time Wimbledon champion to the net. Then, with the 19-year-old West German camped there, Gomez found the range with perfect lobs that touched just inside the base line.
"From the base line, I was better than he was," said Becker, who was not impressed with his opponent, despite the loss. "I couldn't volley today, and my serve was terrible."
Becker did not register an ace while committing five double faults. Gomez had four aces.
"This is a great win for me," said Gomez, who swept the last four games. "To beat the No. 2 player in the world is a great achievement for myself."
In his match, Noah needed only one service break in each set to subdue Zivojinovic.
"He served today unbelievable," Zivojinovic said. "You can't read his serve. I saw it when it went by me."
Noah had six aces, one more than his opponent, and was guilty of only 8 unforced errors to 23 for Zivojinovic.
At Tokyo, Zina Garrison upset top-seeded Hana Mandlikova, 7-6, 6-3, to move into the final of the $200,000 Gunze tournament. She she will meet Pam Shriver, who ousted Manuela Maleeva of Bulgaria, 6-4, 6-4.