WASHINGTON -- Andre Agassi walked on to Stadium Court last night at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center a newly crowned superstar. Ten days ago, he had overcome his critics and his own doubts to win Wimbledon.
But last night that very fact seemed to work against him, as he lost in the second round of the NationsBank Classic in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4, to Kevin Curren.
It is the first time in two years that Agassi has failed to win this tournament title.
"I've had worse losses at worse times," Agassi said. "But it's never enjoyable losing. Adjusting from grass had a lot to do with it. Balls on grass bounce about waist high. Here, they wiz by your head."
Yesterday four of the Top 10 seeds here lost, including No. 5 John McEnroe, who fell to Jeremy Bates, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, in last night's first match.
This afternoon, in the third round, Bates will play Henrik Holm and Curren will meet his own doubles partner Gary Muller.
Tonight, at 7, Ivan Lendl is to meet Jim Grabb, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over NCAA champion Alex O'Brien in the first match on Stadium Court, followed by Jimmy Arias against Malivai Washington.
Curren came into last night's match with a well thought out game plan. His wanted to serve well, be aggressive, take the ball early and rush Agassi into playing faster.
On top of that he knew, from personal experience, that Agassi would be coming down from his all-time career high at Wimbledon and be vulnerable.
"It's like playing in the World Series and then having to play another game," said Curren, who was runner-up at Wimbledon in 1985. "Men's tennis is at the point, where if you're mentally not in shape, there are opportunities for someone else to come through."
Agassi argued none of that, adding, "It also didn't help to be
intoxicated for five days after Wimbledon.
"I was hoping to squeak by one or two matches and find my game," he said. "But I had to play Kevin, who is playing very well right now."
Agassi committed to this tournament after the first week of Wimbledon, because like everyone else, he wasn't sure what chance he had of winning there.
"If I could have told the future, I probably wouldn't have committed to it," he said. "It's too much adjustment too quick. If I told you exactly what I've been doing, I'd probably be arrested. But there have been parties, the city held rallies for me. I've gotten up at 4 a.m. to be on the Today Show. It was non-stop until I got here."
Agassi hadn't lost a set here in two years prior to last night and he was on an 18-2 run since April 27.
But with the score tied at 5-5 in the first set Curren broke through. He did it again at 2-2 in the second set.
"I blew a second serve at a critical point in the first set that set up Kevin's break," Agassi said. "And when a guy gets two net cords like he did, you start to wonder if it's going to be your day. But until he served it out, I thought there was a chance I could win. It has been a long time since I've failed to break someone else's serve."
Curren was very aware of Agassi's ability. When he found himself up 4-2 in the second set, he reminded himself he was a long way from winning.
"I knew he could break me any time," Curren said. "But his timing was off a bit and I never let him get his rhythm."
Curren, who is ranked No. 95, said he could see Agassi's confidence from the beginning, as he smashed shots past Curren that he had never seen before.
"Like George Foreman, he was trying to knock me out with one punch," Curren said. "But he wasn't consistent. He seemed to be swinging from the hip and he didn't try to work a point. That surprised me."