WASHINGTON -- A lot of folks show up at a tennis tournament, watch a couple of name players whack a ball around in the quarterfinals or later and figure that's all there is to the show.
It wasn't until last night that the marquee names of the NationsBank Classic, Wimbledon champion Andre Agassi and John McEnroe, finally hauled their acts onto the stadium court. Meanwhile, Jimmy Brown swears he's been here at least a month.
"My legs just got tired in that third set," the 207th-ranked player in the world sighed after he had given top-seeded Petr Korda all he could handle before succumbing, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. "It was my fifth or sixth match in the last few days."
While Agassi arrives in town amid fanfare, Brown and a gang of intrepid colleagues showed up late last week to get used to the courts, then take part in a cut-throat qualifying tourney. Jimmy had to win three matches in less than 24 hours: Eight tough sets. Tie-breakers galore. Monday, in the opening round, another three-setter. Then doubles.
Brown had a set and a break in the second when Korda awoke from his lengthy snooze. "It was amazing," said Brown. "I'm up, 2-1, and the trainer came out and gave him something . . . and he didn't miss any of his next 15 shots."
Korda, the Czech who was beaten in the final last year by Agassi, said the pick-me-up was minerals which he had forgotten to ingest. "Came here late Monday after a tough doubles match the day before in Switzerland. I have no idea what time my body thinks it is," he said.
This time a couple of years ago Korda was in Brown's boots, looking to make a breakthrough. It started here. After making the final, he was a beaten finalist the next week, then won a tourney shortly thereafter. It's been full speed ahead since.
Talk got around to the tennis in the Olympics and Petr was asked to clarify his position with regard to a flap going on back home. "I pulled out in March, but my federation never made the announcement. It screwed up," he said. "I have to play a summer schedule. I have worked very hard and it has taken a long time for me to get to No. 5. I have to play good to protect it."
* Joining the four seeded players beaten in the first round was Aaron Krickstein (4), sent packing by Guillaume Raoux, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, yesterday. No deceit in this Frenchman: "I was lucky. I broke him in the third set on a net ball, then my serve was good at just the right time, when it was time to serve it out. The only reason I am here is the big tournament at home [Europe] this week is on clay, and I like hardcourts even though everyone knows this is the hottest tournament in the world."
Before beating Krickstein, Raoux defeated Jonathan Stark in the first round. Stark is king of the qualifiers, having gone that route seven times this year before getting into the main draw directly.
* Four of the seven players surviving the qualifying tourney won first-round matches thus gaining important computer points. Besides Brown, Dave Randall, Jimmy Arias and Robbie Koenig all had to go three sets, but they were more than ready for it after an extremely competitive weekend.
For Randall, it constituted his first tour victory at the advanced age of 25. His joy obvious, Dave deadpanned, "No big deal." Wally Masur dispatched him yesterday, 6-2, 7-5.
* The reason McEnroe is pushing a doubles partnership with Agassi is Mac is hopeful of representing the U.S. in doubles in its upcoming Davis Cup tie with Sweden. Agassi is already aboard as one of our singles guys. Remembering the heat here, John isn't playing doubles because, "I've never gotten past the third round the four times I've played here, so I'd view it as an accomplishment if I make it to the quarterfinals. I don't want to put any extra stress on myself."
* Bjorn Borg didn't last long, going out in doubles the first night and in singles Tuesday. But you could tell he's enjoying himself these days as he's much more relaxed, communicative and he talked about the game being "fun."
* This is the 46th stop on the ATP Tour and, to date, there have been 30 different winners. More importantly, there have been 11 first-time victors already, which sort of backs up the game's constant contention that its depth is improving all the time.
The workhorse on tour so far has been Korda with 16 tournaments: "I played nine straight weeks going into the French Open, then took just a week off before Wimbledon. I go now through Toronto. After that I take two weeks to just get some good practice in. To get your game back up you have to have some hard practice."
Petr won one match at Wimby, then lost to Jakob Hlasek, 16-14 in the fifth.
P.S. -- Ivan Lendl quietly slipped by Jared Palmer, 6-4, 6-1, in the late afternoon. My how times have changed.