WASHINGTON - Andre Agassi's eyes turned on his racket, which had turned on him throughout the Legg Mason Tennis Classic final, and after three straight forehand errors on Alex Corretja's serve, Agassi, the No. 1 seed, had had enough.
Holding his racket firmly, he swung - at his left foot.
And then he swung again.
The racket cracked.
Agassi, in case no one noticed, was having a very bad afternoon yesterday on his way to a 6-2, 6-3 loss at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center's stadium court.
Already down a set, he had allowed opportunity after opportunity to pass him by. Forehands were missing long. Backhands were sailing wide. Second-seeded Corretja was beating him with ease.
Demolishing the racket in the third game - and then damaging another against the net post on his way off the court on a change-over four games later - helped him, but not enough as Corretja went on to win this championship match.
"I'm sorry," Agassi said to the crowd as he accepted his runner-up trophy. "I've had better days and I acted like [a jerk] and broke a couple rackets. But I got what I deserved. I got my [backside] kicked. Alex played great. But the only other option was not to care, and that's kind of hard to do."
It was more than apparent how much Agassi wanted this tournament. He had not completed an event since injuring his back immediately after Wimbledon, and had felt as though he had played well and gained momentum entering the final.
But when 17 unforced errors led to the first-set loss against inspired Corretja, who cracked nine aces, and at times caught Agassi flat-footed with 93-mph service winners, it was clear the five-time Legg Mason champion was in trouble. It marked the first time he'd lost a set here in 15 matches, dating to 1998.
When he had his self-inflicted disciplinary session, the crowd sat in shocked silence. No one had seen this Agassi since - well, no one could remember when they'd seen this Agassi.
He fought off three break points on his own serve in game four to stay on serve at 2-2, but even in that set he gave himself such a strong lecture when another of his forehands flew long that his shoulders jerked wildly. And in game five, after a backhand landed behind the baseline, he raised his racket as if to rap himself on the head, but stopped just before hard contact.
Through the afternoon, Agassi made an uncharacteristic 38 unforced errors.
"I was really upset because I wasn't executing the shot when it was there, and I was going for shots when they weren't there," Agassi said. "I was making bad decisions."
All of it tended to detract from a fine performance by Corretja, who shrugged off Agassi's angst.
"It's part of the game," Corretja said. "When you are out there playing one of the greatest players in the history of tennis, it is just enough to know you are in the finals against him. I didn't lose my focus."
Corretja, the world's seventh-ranked player, served harder than usual and showed he was ready to run for as long as it took. He also made some amazing shots in his own right. No one noticed more than Agassi.
He had fought off three break points in game four and seemed to be finding a little rhythm, but then "Alex played an obscene game," Agassi said. "He made two beautiful backhand volleys at the line and stopped my momentum."
Corretja has now won 16 of his past 17 matches, and his four titles this season ties him for the lead in ATP tour victories with Gustavo Kuerten and Lleyton Hewitt.
Yesterday's victory was his third straight over Agassi dating to 1998, and sends him into the Aug. 28 U.S. Open feeling better about his chances than he ever has.
Still, he said, it isn't just yesterday's final that has improved his confidence.
"You do not win a tournament by winning the final match," Corretja said. "You win it on the first day and every other day. In my first match here, I was down 5-4 and 40-0 facing match point. Then in the second and third rounds you endure a seven-hour rain delay, and you have to not get crazy.
"Today, Andre did not play his best tennis. But that's tennis. If he played his best tennis everyday, no one else would ever win."