And then there were two, but only No. 1.
When the NationsBank Classic started a week ago at the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Washington, many of the top Americans were here and were seeded --Wimbledon singles champion Andre Agassi, Wimbledon doubles champ John McEnroe, Wimbledon wanna-be champ Ivan Lendl and Aaron Krickstein.
But all of them are gone. Only top seed Petr Korda and unseeded Henrik Holm remain. Henrik who?
Holm is a 23-year-old Swede on the rise who advanced to the final yesterday by beating seventh seed Derrick Rostagno. Korda, who began his ascent to No. 5 in the world rankings after the Washington tournament last year, beat up on MaliVai Washington, 7-6 (7-1), 6-O, in front of a capacity crowd of 7,500. Korda and Holm will play today at 1 p.m. for $81,600.
Against Korda, Washington opened the match with two aces, and it looked like he was in the driver's seat after breaking Korda in the second game. Washington saved two break points at 3-1, and served for the set at 5-3.
But Korda hung tough, playing more consistently and waiting for Washington to make the error and won four of the next five games to force a tiebreaker.
From there, Korda was unstoppable.
"Since early years I start to play tennis my father told me never give up, try to fight, put the ball over the net, let him play," said the Czechoslovakian who lost in the final here last year to Agassi. "That's what I did. It was working.
"Then in the tiebreaker I start to play my game, and I was more confident, and I think second set I was all over the court."
Playing with the confidence Washington exuded earlier in the first set, Korda approached on short balls, blistering forehands down the line, cross court, and inside out. Washington never recovered after the tiebreaker.
"I don't think that I played well," said Washington, who lost his first love set of the year to Korda. "He made a heck of a lot more errors at the first than the latter part of the match.
"I was hitting a lot of short balls, but it had something to do with him. He was hitting a lot of pace, a lot of deep balls. I wasn't on the offense, he was."
Despite the loss, Washington will move into the top 20 in the rankings for the first time in his career.
Korda lost to Holm in their only match in 1989 in Austria, 7-6, 6-3. Holm advanced to the final by beating Rostagno with a powerful serve-and-volley attack. With the victory, Holm, ranked 114th in the world, reaches his first final of his career.
"It's going to be exciting," said the wide-eyed, 23-year-old who got hisbiggest career victory two days ago over Ivan Lendl in the quarterfinals. "Today, everything felt better than yesterday. I didn't feel stressed.
Holm, who's game is reminiscent of fellow Swede Stefan Edberg's, broke Rostagno three times during the match. Holm got his first break in the seventh game of the match by hitting a forehand crosscourt past Rostagno. But in the next game, leading 4-3, Holm hit a volley in the net to lose his advantage.
Again in the next game Rostagno had trouble with his serve and seemed to lose his concentration, hitting a forehand volley in the net to lose the game. Holm held serve at love to win the set.
Holm has served 32 aces during the tournament, and Rostagno was frustrated by his booming serve, which was 110-120 mph.
"I was a little confused on how to approach the match," said the California native who acknowledged that he had not seen Holm play before. "It was a little tough to return his serve. He was serving very big as usual, and on the second serve somehow I didn't get a good rhythm on returning."
Rostagno won just 16 of 54 points on Holm's serve. Lendl also had trouble returning Holm's serve, but was helped by 13 double faults. Against Rostagno, Holm cut the number to six, and hit six aces.
"At 4-3 in the first set, I had three or four double faults," Holm said of the only game in which he was broken by Rostagno. "But that's normal. . . . I've been going for it, been kicking my serve in, and I've been serving quite hard. That's my game."
In a doubles semifinal, unseeded Bret Gardner and 1991 NCAA champ Jared Palmer beat top seed Richey Reneberg and Jim Grabb, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.
Yesterday's results Semifinals Singles
Henrick Holm, Sweden, def. Derrick Rostagno, Pacific Palisades, Calif., 6-3, 6-4.
Petr Korda (1), Czechoslovakia, def. MaliVai Washington (6), Swartz Creek, Mich., 7-6 (7-1), 6-0.
Bret Garnett, Camden, S.C. and Jared Palmer, Saddlebrook, Fla., def. Jim Grabb, Tampa, Fla., and Richey Reneberg, Houston, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.