NEW YORK — Top-seeded Ivan Lendl beat fifth-seeded Boris Becker, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, Saturday in the Masters tennis championship, eliminating Becker from the $500,000 tournament and giving eighth-seeded Brad Gilbert the last semifinal berth.
Becker, who lost the last two Masters finals to Lendl, needed to win the match in straight sets to advance to the semifinals of the round-robin event.
Lendl, who has won 12 straight Masters matches, will play Gilbert in today's second semifinal at Madison Square Garden. Second-seeded Stefan Edberg of Sweden will meet third-seeded Mats Wilander of Sweden in the other match.
A best-of-five set final will be played Monday night.
Lendl stands to earn $1,593,000 in a span of eight days. By winning the Masters for a record fifth time, he would earn $210,000 and is also assured $800,000 for winning the Nabisco Grand Prix bonus pool. Last Sunday, he won $583,000 in the Stakes Match.
Lendl, who is 13-0 against Gilbert and routed him Thursday night, was obviously happy with the semifinal pairings, which were determined by a racket spin.
"I think Edberg and I both wanted to play Gilbert," he said. "It's potentially the easier match. He could go out and beat me, but I'd still rather play him than Wilander."
Edberg, who beat Wilander, 6-2, 7-6, in Saturday's first match, and Lendl were the only players in the eight-man field to win all three of their round-robin matches.
The two Swedes finished the round robin with 2-1 records.
Becker would also have been 2-1 if he had beaten Lendl. But, under the Masters rules, the two-time Wimbledon champion needed a straight-set victory to beat out Gilbert for the last semifinal berth.
When Becker won the second-set tiebreaker, it snapped Lendl's streak of winning 25 straight sets in the Masters, dating back to January 1985, when John McEnroe beat him in the final.
But Becker, who played erratically throughout the tournament, couldn't maintain his momentum in the final set.
"I knew before the match that I had to win two sets," he said. "But that's not too easy against Lendl."
Lendl broke Becker to go ahead 4-2 in the final set. After squandering two match points, he closed out the 2-hour, 45-minute match with his ninth ace.
"He played horribly in the first set because there was pressure on him, but once he realized he was out of the running, he started to hit good," said Lendl, who raised his record against Becker to 7-3.
Becker, who was plagued by double-faults in his two earlier matches, had nine more against Lendl.
Although Edberg and Wilander were already assured of advancing to the final four, both had incentive to win Saturday because the winner knew he wouldn't have to play Lendl in the semifinals.
Edberg overpowered Wilander in the first set, losing only two points on his serve, and appeared in control in the second set after taking a 5-3 lead.
But Wilander fought off two match points in the next game and held serve to cut the lead to 5-4.
"I played exceptional until 5-4 in the second set," Edberg said. "I served and volleyed well and hit many winners off my volley, but then he played a few good points and I became tense."
Edberg had two more match points in the 10th game, but double-faulted on the first and netted a volley on the second. Wilander then came up with two straight passing shots to even the set at 5-5.
After each player held serve, Edberg took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker. Wilander saved a fifth match point at 6-4, but he hit a backhand wide on the next point to end the match.
"I'm playing well, there's no doubt about it," said Edberg, who beat Wilander for the fifth time in 12 meetings. "I'm very happy with my serve and even more happy with my volley."
In the final match of the day, seventh-seeded Pat Cash of Australia defeated sixth-seeded Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia, 7-5, 6-4. Both players entered the match with 0-2 records and were already eliminated.