Agassi's entry a boon for D.C.tournament Wimbledon champ boosts ticket sales

Ticket sales for the NationsBank Classic next week in Washington have skyrocketed since Andre Agassi won Wimbledon on Sunday.

"It's been absolutely amazing," said tournament director Josh Ripple, who gave Agassi a wild card into the tournament on June 25. "There has been a rush in the last 48 hours. Ticket sales are 20 to 25 percent higher than they were at this time last year, and that's only going to snowball over the next few days.


"With Agassi's entry and both his and [John] McEnroe's results [at Wimbledon], the phones have been going wacko."

Agassi beat Goran Ivanisevic, 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, to win his first Grand Slam tournament, and McEnroe teamed with Germany's Michael Stich to win the Wimbledon doubles championship over Jim Grabb and Richey Reneberg, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 19-17.


Agassi and McEnroe, who will play doubles together in the tournament, are two of the players scheduled to play in what Ripple calls the strongest field for the Washington tournament in 15 years.

"Seven of the top eight seeds are in the top 20," Ripple said. "That's huge for us. Washington has been a tournament where you get two or three star, marquee players. Normally, the eighth seed is ranked around 100. That's not the case this year."

Although the singles draw will not be made until Saturday, the top seed probably will be fifth-ranked Petr Korda, followed by Agassi, who now is ranked No. 9.

Ivan Lendl, who was sworn in as a U.S. citizen yesterday, probably will be seeded third. Lendl retired from his fourth-round match at Wimbledon against Ivanisevic, complaining of a strained back, but Ripple expressed confidence he will play in Washington.

"Based on Ivan's track record -- he's dropped out of the tournament the last few years -- you always get nervous," Ripple said. "But I talked with him yesterday and he asked what ball we were playing with so he could practice with it."

Aaron Krickstein, Brad Gilbert, McEnroe, MaliVai Washington and Derrick Rostagno round out the top eight seeds.

Bjorn Borg, who won 11 Grand Slam championships and is attempting a comeback, also received a wild-card entry into the tournament.

"We felt it was worthwhile to approach him several weeks ago when the field looked a little weak and Andre hadn't said whether he would come or not," Ripple said. "We felt it would be a good opportunity for the people here to see him play."


Borg looks forward to playing for the first time in Washington.

"I've been in Sweden in June working very hard," Borg, 36, said last week. "I'm looking forward to coming to the States again. Hopefully, I'll play a lot of matches. That's what I need. You can practice all you want, but you need that match play."

Though tickets are selling fast, Ripple said, decent seats are still available.

"Normally, we probably are sold out for the last weekend by the end of this week," he said. "We'll be sold out for the last three to four sessions -- Friday evening and maybe even the Thursday evening quarterfinals -- by the end of this week."

Facts and figures



What: NationsBank Classic

When: Qualifying is 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The main draw begins at noon Monday. The final will be July 19.

Where: William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, 16th Street and Colorado Avenue, N.W., Washington. From Baltimore, take Interstate 95 South to the Capital Beltway West. Take Exit 31 (Georgia Avenue) south to 16th Street. Take 16th Street south to Colorado Avenue.

Surface: Deco Turf II

Players: Two-time defending champion Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Petr Korda, Ivan Lendl, Brad Gilbert, Aaron Krickstein and Bjorn Borg are among the field of 56 players.

Prize money: $625,000


Tickets: Can be purchased at all TicketMaster outlets, including area Hecht's stores, or can be charged by phone by calling (202) 432-SEAT. Prices range from $6 to $33.