Agassi pencils in Washington tourney Defending champ needs tuneup before Olympics

July 13, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

The way the worldwide, year-round adventure called pro tennis is set up, some players have an off-season that consists of a quick flight home, maybe an exchange of Christmas gifts or Thanksgiving dinner and right back to the airport.

It's not much of a problem from a physical standpoint if a player only gets to play a weekend match on occasion. But for top seeds, it's different.

"Last year was a problem for me. I played too much," said Andre Agassi. "I dominated through much of the year and my season ended on a positive note. I did set up my schedule to avoid playing too much tennis this year, though."

Consequently, and with an appearance in the Olympic Games later this month, Agassi didn't include next week's Legg Mason Classic in Washington on his original itinerary. It was a tough call since he won here last year and "I've always considered Washington one of the best stops on the tour for me. I always like to start my summer season here."

About two months ago, however, a rather large wrench was cast into Agassi's works. "Being knocked out of the French Open in the second round was much too early. I wasn't prepared well for the grass at Wimbledon, but I thought if I could get past the first round maybe my game would fall into place." Wrong.

Agassi lost to qualifier Doug Flach, No. 281 on the ATP rankings, in the first round. Suddenly, the problem wasn't too much tennis, but the opposite. A quick call to ProServ, the folks who stage the event in Rock Creek Park, corrected the situation and the three-time champ is back to defend.

"I have faith in my abilities and I'm eager to get back in the swing of things," Agassi said. "Some might consider the weather a drawback, but I'm used to hot [living in Las Vegas] and, besides, it'll be a good prep for Atlanta."

NOTE: A 56-player qualifying tourney starts today at 10 a.m. with survivors of two matches today and one tomorrow making it into the main draw.

Fact box

What: Legg Mason Tennis Classic, July 15-21.

Where: FitzGerald Tennis Center, 16th and Kennedy streets, NW, Washington.

When: Sessions Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday's final, 3: 30 p.m.

Defending champion: Andre Agassi.

Tickets: $12, $14, $17, $18, $21, $23, $27 (quarterfinals), $31 (semifinals), $35 (final). Available at gate or by calling pTC TicketMaster: (410) 481-SEAT, (703) 573-SEAT, (202) 432-SEAT.

Pub Date: 7/13/96

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