HANOVER, Germany (AP) _ After pounding 32 aces and fighting Pete Sampras through three tiebreakers, Boris Becker didn't feel like a loser.

``To be part of such a match is a highlight of my career,'' Becker said Sunday after Sampras beat him 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (13-11), 6-4 in the ATP Tour World Championship final.

``It was so incredibly close; we ran our guts out,'' Becker said. ``At the end he was one shot better. At the end, I didn't really care who won.''

Sampras confirmed his No. 1 ranking by winning the tournament for the third title and defeating the defending champion. He will finish No. 1 for the fourth consecutive year, a feat that hadn't been accomplished since John McEnroe in 1984.

``This is one the best matches I have ever been a part of,'' Sampras said. ``This is what the game is all about. It's not the money, it's not all that, it's the great matches.''

Sampras won $1.34 million and Becker, ranked sixth in the world, won $640,000. Becker actually won 12 more points than Sampras.

``I tried my best, but it was not to be,'' Becker said.

Becker clearly was the favorite among the capacity crowd of 15,000, but Sampras also received huge applause.

``They were rooting for him, but they were not against me,'' Sampras said. ``It was a great atmosphere and it raises the level of tennis and it's fun to be part of it.''

Becker, a former No. 1, said the match proved he could still compete with the best.

``If I am healthy, I'll give them a run for their money,'' said Becker, who won the Australian Open in January, but hurt his wrist at Wimbledon and missed two months of play.

Sampras had lost his previous two matches against Becker, including one in the round-robin phase of this tournament. In nine finals this year, Sampras lost only once _ to Becker at Stuttgart one month ago.

His victory Sunday gave Sampras a tour-high eight titles this year, including the U.S. Open. Sampras, 25, was playing his fourth final in seven appearances at the championship, which he also won in 1991 and 1994.

``He has the chance to be the best ever,'' said Becker, who also beat Sampras in the round-robin phase two years ago only to lose the final.

Sampras said that despite all the titles, it had been a very difficult year. Tim Gullikson, his coach and close friend, died of brain cancer in May.

``Tim would want me to keep on playing hard and playing well and continue to be happy,'' Sampras said. ``And when you play matches like this, it reminds you of the things he told you. It still hurts, but I just have to move on.''