Goldstein can't get by Martin in D.C.

Md. player falls, 6-4, 7-5

Agassi wins

August 21, 1999|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Todd Martin gave a little laugh. The question: How could he come in here and beat the hometown crowd favorite like that?

Only a few minutes earlier, he had dispatched Paul Goldstein, the budding star from Rockville, 6-4, 7-5, to advance to the semifinals of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, where he'll met No. 2 seed Andre Agassi tonight.

Martin had trotted to the net after Goldstein's final backhand came up short and wrapped his arm around the 23-year-old's shoulders, telling him what a good job he had done.

"This is what we do every week of every year," said Martin, the No. 4 seed here. "We have a lot of chances to beat not only the crowd favorite but a lot of favorites of entire small countries. You just go out and focus.

"In this case, if I'd have lost to Paul, it wouldn't have been a bad loss. He's nowhere near the same player he was a year ago. Offensively, he's made a lot of strides."

Goldstein, the recent winner of the Pan American Games gold medal, is No. 97 in the world, but even with No. 2 Yevgeny Kafelnikov and No. 3 Andre Agassi in the field, it was the local kid who had ignited the imagination of the crowds this week.

Last night, the biggest crowd of the week, 7,412, filed into Stadium Court to see Goldstein.

And Goldstein, playing in his first ATP Tour quarterfinal, tried hard not to let them down.

"I had the opportunity," he said. "At 40-15 and 5-3, I just couldn't get my first serve in. He got two second serves to look at, and he won the points quickly. After that, I had an emotional let-down, and Todd didn't give me another chance. But if I had gotten to the third set, I would have taken my chances."

He and No. 9 seed Fabrice Santoro, who lost earlier in the evening to Agassi by an identical 6-4, 7-5 score, could have compared notes. Santoro had had three break point opportunities on Agassi's serve in the second set and was unable to cash any of them.

"It is no surprise when I tell you Andre is playing the best tennis of his career," said Santoro. "This was a good match, but if, at this time, you want to beat Andre, you have to play very, very high tennis."

Agassi felt comfortable early in his match with Santoro. You could tell, because Agassi not only played his game; he played to the crowd.

When he missed a volley and lost control of his racket in the fifth game, he picked it up and juggled it like a man with buttered fingers.

Agassi, who won the French Open two months ago, becoming the fifth man to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a career, vowed after that victory that he would try for more consistency.

Today, he will enter his sixth straight semifinal since Roland Garros.

The tournament's semifinals will begin at 1 p.m. today, with No. 1 seed Kafelnikov facing No. 6 seed Nicolas Kiefer. Agassi and Martin are to play at 7 p.m.

This is the second straight year that three of the top-four seeds have reached the semis. The final is scheduled for 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Goldstein, who broke Martin to get up 4-2 in the second set with a wonderful stab, backhand volley, drew applause from the crowd surrounding Stadium Court at the H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center and from Martin, too.

But at 5-3 and 40-15, as Goldstein said, his service game deserted him. Martin got back on serve, when Goldstein drove his backhand long on break point.

From there, Martin was in control, serving three aces in the final game to seal the outcome.

"One thing Paul's going to learn is that he doesn't have to force plays when he's ahead," said Martin. "When I got down 5-2, I controlled the game more. Paul needs to be more patient in that situation or develop more weapons to use when I get conservative.

"Tonight, I was very fortunate to get through the second set. Paul was just overzealous at times. If he'd been patient enough, he would have had chances to pass me."

Still, Goldstein was not hanging his head. He waved to the crowd, signed autographs and said: "I feel good. And the week was outstanding. And playing two top-10 guys on back-to-back nights should do a lot for my confidence going into the U.S. Open."

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