From start to finish, it's all Agassi in D.C. 6-2, 6-0 win over Draper tops off powerful showing

July 27, 1998|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Matches are supposed to get tougher as a tennis tournament rolls along, the higher-rated and seeded players coming to grips with the big money on the line.

You couldn't tell it by Andre Agassi's week at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. The power-hitting, 5-foot-11, 160-pounder brushed aside the field with shocking aplomb, his matches seemingly getting easier.

It probably wouldn't have mattered if two-time defending champion Michael Chang, who defaulted in the semifinals with an injured wrist, had been the opponent in the championship match yesterday -- Agassi would have been odds-on to breeze, considering the way he has played.

As it was, Australian Scott Draper, having a fine tournament and a solid year himself, was little more than a foil as Agassi frolicked, 6-2, 6-0.

"I felt I played well today, same as I did all week, which is scary to me, getting blown out like that," Draper said.

Draper started spectacularly, holding his serve with a pair of aces and gaining a game point on Agassi before he held. Draper pulled ahead 2-1 but then, in effect, his day was over.

Agassi hauled out the missiles and won the last 11 games, breaking the left-hander five straight times while winning 45 points and surrendering just 13.

Draper had an inkling of what could happen to him after Chang took leave, saying: "Andre doesn't give an inch. He wants to demolish you out there."

Still, the Aussie was confident he'd provide a good test, if not win, because of his powerful serve and complete assortment of shots. Wrong.

"If I'm playing well, which I am, moving well and taking the ball early, I force a lot of unforced errors because my opponent doesn't have a lot of time to react," Agassi said.

That's exactly what happened in the match, which required just 50 minutes, the shortest final of the year on the ATP tour, and in Agassi's romp through the quarterfinals and semifinals. Agassi's match scores since Friday night: 6-1, 6-2; then 6-1, 6-0, and, finally, 6-2, 6-0.

Draper suggested the victor might be playing as well as when he was No. 1 through much of 1995, and Agassi said: "I'll agree with that.

"The reason, if there is one, is I'm much better prepared both mentally and physically to deal with anything that may arise. Here, for instance, I found myself wanting every match more and more.

"Now, I've got to take advantage of my play, and I plan to. I'm scheduled into Los Angeles, Toronto, Cincinnati and Indianapolis the next four weeks [before the U.S. Open at the end of August]."

A brutal schedule.

"A couple of weeks ago. I couldn't think about winning the Open. Now, I know if I play like this, I can win it. I've always been a player who can make quick gains."

Which is exactly what he's done since ending 1997 with the embarrassing ranking of No. 122. This tourney victory, his third of the year to go along with two other finals, will jump him five spots in the rankings to No. 13.

It's obvious he's thriving on work and, he said, "It's very exciting to be playing to the level where I can demand from myself the type of tennis I'm capable of.

"All along, I've been playing it one day at a time, knocking off players one by one. It's surprising. I'm getting there much quicker than I anticipated. My goal is to not lose a match this summer."

That would constitute a winning streak in the mid-30s. Awesome. Watch out, Pete Sampras.

NOTES: After winning the first three tournaments they entered as pros, two on the Futures Tour and one on the Challenger Tour, twins Bob and Mike Bryan had their 17-match doubles winning streak ended Saturday night when they lost to the No. 5-seeded doubles team of Grant Stafford and Kevin Ullyett. Stafford and Ullyett took the doubles title, defeating Wayne Ferreira and Pat Galbraith, 6-2, 6-4. Bob Bryan, the NCAA singles champion, volunteered to play an exhibition match against Draper Saturday after Chang had to default. This and several other off-court volunteer activities during the week won the Bryans Sportsmen of the Week honors, $5,000 being donated in their names to the National Junior Tennis League by the ATP Tour.

Pub Date: 7/27/98

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