Agassi weathers Eltingh's serve in D.C. Defending champion tunes up for Olympics

July 17, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- With just five matches under his belt in the last 3 1/2 months, even Andre Agassi, who doesn't lack for confidence, had to have some doubt.

Not scheduled to compete in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic even though he's the defending champion and enjoys this stop on the tour, Agassi jumped in late and, at times last night, let everyone know he's back to serious business.

Try as he might, Jacco Eltingh of the Netherlands, a much better player than his current No. 197 ranking, couldn't withstand Agassi's searing passing shots from the baseline while toppling, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3.

"I thought I played well against a good player," said Agassi. "That was as tough a match as you get in the first round. Jacco served incredibly well."

The victory gave Agassi only a 3-3 record since winning the Lipton Championships in late March. Agassi said: "What was important to me is to improve. I'm always looking to get better every time I go out there whether it's practice or playing and, last year, all the success I had was a byproduct of that commitment."

"Against Agassi," said Eltingh, "your problems begin with his return of your second serve. He takes the ball early and hits it harder than anyone else so you're rushed."

Just before his match, Agassi was informed teammate Pete Sampras was pulling off the U.S. tennis team competing in the Olympics. "I'm very disappointed," Agassi said. "He gave us a great shot at the gold medal.

"We'll miss Pete, but we can still do it. Four years ago, our team was Brad Gilbert and Tim Mayotte [singles] and [Ken] Flach and [Robert] Seguso. We got knocked a little bit for that team but they all medaled.

"To me, the Olympics is the epitome of being an athlete. It's for people who love what they do. I'm a second generation Olympian [his father competed as a boxer in the 1952 Games], so it's special for me."

Agassi will be back at the stand tonight at 7, taking on 15th seed tTC Pat Rafter in the feature match.

NOTES: Danny Cantwell, the teaching pro out of Baltimore, called it a great experience competing in his first ATP Tour tournament. But after starting well, breaking opponent Karol Kucera of Slovakia for a 3-2 lead, Cantwell lost his serve thereafter and fell, 6-4, 6-0. . . . Players who struggled through a tough weekend of matches to make the field proved their mettle by winning five of seven first-round matches.

Singles first round

Byron Black (9), Zimbabwe, def. Chuck Adams, Pacific Palisades, Calif., 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. Michael Joyce, Los Angeles, def. Gianluca Pozzi, Italy, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. Hicham Arazi, Morocco, def. Michael Tebbutt, Australia, 6-2, 6-4. Sargis Sargsian, Armenia, def. Oscar Ortiz, Mexico, 6-2, 6-4. Karol Kucera, Slovakia, def. Danny Cantwell, Salisbury, 6-4, 6-0. Geoff Grant, Princeton, N.J., def. Marcus Hilpert, Germany, 6-2, 6-2.

Steve Campbell, Detroit, def. Alejandro Hernandez, Mexico, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-3. Nicolas Pereira, Venezuela, def. Daniel Vacek (11), Czechoslovakia, 6-3, 6-3. Marcos Ondruska, South Africa, def. Grant Stafford, South Africa, 5-7, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2. Chris Woodruff (14), Knoxville, Tenn., def. Jean-Philippe Fleurian, France, 6-2, 6-2. Jan Kroslak, Slovakia, def. Leander Paes, India, 6-4, 6-2.

Wade McGuire, Tampa, def. Carlos Costa (10), Spain, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5). Patrick Rafter (16), Australia, def. Joao Cunha-Silva, Portugal, 6-2, 6-2. Andre Agassi (1), Las Vegas, def. Jacco

Eltingh, Netherlands, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3.

Pub Date: 7/17/96

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