WASHINGTON -- Top-seeded Petr Korda did what he was supposed to do yesterday -- win the NationsBank Classic at the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.
But in a tournament in which many of the top-seeded players -- including Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl -- lost before the quarterfinals, the probability of a seeded player winning the tournament seemed unlikely.
Enter Korda, a hard-working Czechoslovakian left-hander with a big serve and punishing ground strokes. The 23-year-old quietly dominated the tournament, losing only one set, and yesterday he beat unseeded Henrik Holm of Sweden, 6-4, 6-4.
Holm -- who came to Washington ranked No. 114 but will move up to No. 60 after his performance here -- was playing in the first final of his six-year career.
"I think [Holm] played like I felt at the French Open," said Korda, referring to his nervous performance in his first final this year, which he lost to Jim Courier. "[Yesterday] I got a good start in both sets and was strong always in the end."
Korda broke Holm with a rocketing forehand cross-court return off a 111-mph serve to open the match. He broke again in the third game when Holm , wearing Terminator-like sunglasses to battle the glaring sun, double-faulted.
"Today, the double faults came in the wrong situations," said Holm, who had eight in the match, each seemingly at a crucial time. "It was bad, and it made me lose confidence."
Korda, exuding confidence and leading 4-0, 0-30 on Holm's serve, put the racket in his right hand to hit a high forehand for a winner. But Holm, faced with three break points, ran off a string of five points that led to three games, pulling close at 4-3.
"He was nervous until 4-0," said Korda, who earned $81,600 with the victory. "He played without pressure. It's difficult to play a guy like Holm with a big serve."
Holm overcame the butterflies to win three games in the first set, but he was unable to overtake Korda. The second set was a repeat of the first, with Korda breaking Holm twice and taking a 4-0 lead. Holm mounted a comeback, pulling to 4-4 before Korda closed out the match.
"I couldn't come in, he was playing so well," said Holm, who usually plays a serve-and-volley game but was forced to stay on the baseline. "He was putting the ball back on the baseline. . . . He is better than me from the baseline."
Korda, who looks up to fellow lefties Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, is inching closer to the top-ranked status that Connors and McEnroe had during the primes of their careers. He will remain at No. 5 in the world despite his victory in Washington. Last year, when he was ranked No. 69, he lost in the final of this tournament to Agassi, but his career took off as he posted a 30-9 record the remainder of the year.
"I was very strong all week," said Korda after winning his 34th match of the year. "This is the first time I was a No. 1 seed and won the tournament. I played good tennis."
In the doubles final, unseeded Bret Garnett and Jared Palmer, playing in their second tournament together, upset third-seeded Ken Flach and Todd Witsken, 6-2, 6-3.
Palmer and Garnett beat No. 4 seeds Luke Jensen and Laurie Warder in the second round and No. 1 seeds Jim Grabb and Richey Reneberg en route to their first tournament victory as a team.