Garnett doubles his pleasure by qualifying for singles, too


WASHINGTON -- Bret Garnett's name doesn't even show up on the latest ATP singles rankings because the list stops at No. 331 and, well, he probably stands a couple hundred places below that.

Now you want to talk doubles, Bret's one of your guys.

"I guess it hurts a little, concentrating on doubles," says the South Carolina native, "but it's just so tough to make a go of it in singles."

For example, the Sovran Tennis Classic, under way today at the Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park, has a 56-man draw with the 45 top-rated players going directly in. Then there's four wild cards and, finally, seven survivors from the qualifying tournament staged over the weekend.

Garnett, with victories over seeded Greg Failla and local favorite Jeff Hersh (Rockville), will be playing singles this week. "Most of the time," he says, "it's tough even getting a spot in a qualifier."

Doubles then is what keeps a guy going, affording him the opportunity to be around for occasional shots at singles. "The tour's been going 25 weeks already and I've played all but three of them," says Bret. "This is my 18th straight week and I've played only five singles matches all year."

While a lot of his colleagues make it sound like a sentence, Garnett's still hokey enough to be appreciative of the opportunity for an occasional head-to-head match. "Sure, there's advantage to playing in the qualifier," he says. "For one, they give you the chance to play matches you otherwise wouldn't have."

After winning a couple of doubles matches with partner Jeff Brown at Wimbledon, Bret hustled to Newport last week where he advanced through the qualifier before losing to Johan Kriek in the first round. He won two doubles matches.

"There are so many players out here nowadays, guys are focusing more and more on doubles. And as opposed to the past, I guess, you can make a pretty good living at it," he continues. "John Fitzgerald, for instance, took the doubles at the French [Open] and the doubles and the mixed [doubles] at Wimbledon and won $250,000."

And it's not as if a guy who shows up at the tourney site a couple of days early and goes through qualification has virtually no chance of making some noise in the main draw. Why, just a month ago, a player wild-carded into a qualifier, moved on and ended up winning a tourney in Manchester, England, beating U.S. Open champ Pete Sampras in the final. Of course, it was 10th-ranked Goran Ivanisevic, who showed up looking to play at the last minute.

The ATP produced one victory by a qualifier during last year's tour, Magnus Larsson whipping Lawson Duncan in the final at Florence, Italy. Two years ago, four qualifiers won tournaments and, since 1978, the total stands at 14. An even bigger upset occurred last year when Francisco Clavet, a lucky loser out of a qualifier, captured a tournament in Europe.

Bret Garnett has always penciled in the Washington stop on his schedule, because, as he puts it, "you never have any trouble getting loosened up playing in Washington in July. I rely on my serve and it's hard to serve when it's cold. That's never a problem here."

Nor has it been throughout much of Garnett's career, which started in Columbia, S.C., then took him to Southwest Louisiana State University.

Top seed for the tourney and expected to headline the evening program either tomorrow or Wednesday is defending champion Andre Agassi. John McEnroe is seeded second followed by Brad Gilbert, beaten finalist here two years ago, and Richey Reneberg.

Sessions go daily at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. and the Tennis Center rTC can be reached by taking the Georgia Avenue exit off the Washington Beltway and proceeding in toward the city on 16th Street to Rock Creek Park.

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