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Agassi set to restart poor year D.C. Classic a place to prepare for Open TENNIS


Andre Agassi will likely have the fans on his side this week when he competes in the $625,000 Newsweek Tennis Classic in Washington. And though he'll surely come up with a few antics to please them, Agassi will have his hands full trying to redeem a disappointing year.

Since winning Wimbledon in 1992, Agassi has won just three tournaments and he has dropped to No. 22 in the computer rankings, his lowest standing since February 1988. The Newsweek Tennis Classic, which begins this morning at William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park, is Agassi's chance to prepare for the U.S. Open.

That should keep him focused.

But there's more. Agassi, who won this tournament in 1990 and 1991, embarrassed himself there last year by falling in the first round to Kevin Curren. He came to Washington just after winning Wimbledon and said he was not mentally ready for the tournament.

"It's not as specific as redeeming myself," Agassi said last week. "After Wimbledon, I'd accomplished what I had worked all my life for. I didn't feel I could be [prepared for the next tournament]."

For much of this year, Agassi, 23, has dealt with a variety of injuries and they contributed to his fall in the rankings. He missed the Australian Open and French Open due to, respectively, a bout with bronchitis and tendinitis in his right wrist.

As the defending champion at Wimbledon, with seemingly all of England -- plus Barbra Streisand -- behind him, Agassi played through his wrist injury and advanced farther than most expected, taking eventual champion Pete Sampras to five sets in the quarterfinals before losing.

"I'm feeling so good about my game right now," he said. "I'm trying to get my game back [so that] the rankings are the last thing I worry about. I want a decent seeding at the Open. As far as my overall ranking, I haven't thought much about it."

Agassi also will have to put aside the shock of losing longtime coach Nick Bollettieri, who resigned July 9.

"I've been with Nick for 10 years, and any time you spend that kind of time with someone, it's hard professionally to split," he said.

Agassi may already have a potential adviser lined up. He has been consulting with John McEnroe since they helped the United States win the Davis Cup last year.

"John has a lot of things on his mind right now," Agassi said. "He's just going through the process of retiring. That poses a concern for me, so it's still on ice."

Today's matches

(Seeds in parentheses)

Stadium Court: John Roddick vs. Shuzo Matsuoka, 11 a.m., followed by Jeff Tarango vs. Bryan Shelton, followed by Neil Borwick vs. Richey Reneberg (11); Brett Steven (12) vs. Aaron Krickstein, 7 p.m., followed by Malivai Washington-Amos Mansdorf vs. Brad Gilbert-Brian MacPhie.

Grandstand Court: Byron Black vs. Vince Spadea, 11 a.m., followed by Bret Garnett vs. Rob Weiss, followed by Jakob Hlasek (15) vs. Markus Zoecke; Tom Mercer-John Sullivan vs. Glenn Michibata-David Pate, not before 3:30 p.m.; Sandon Stolle vs. Christian Bergstrom (10), 7:30 p.m.

Court 1: Luis Herrera vs. Jamie Morgan (16), 11 a.m., followed by Chris Garner vs. Christo Van Rensburg, followed by Mauricio Hadad vs. Brad Pearce.

Court 2: Alex Antonitsch vs. Scott Humphries, noon, followed by Mark Kaplan vs. Mark Knowles.


What: Newsweek Tennis Classic

When: Main draw begins this afternoon; finals are Sunday.

Where: William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, 16th and Kennedy streets, NW, Washington. From Baltimore, take Interstate 95 South to Capital Beltway West. Take Exit 31 (Georgia Avenue) south to 16th Street. Take 16th Street south to Colorado Avenue. Parking on-site is limited, but free shuttle service is available from the Silver Spring Metro station, Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m. until one hour past the completion of the last match of the session. A shuttle also will operate from St. John's School (2607 Military Road, NW) and Rock Creek Park picnic groves #6, #7, #8, #13, #14.

Surface: Deco Turf II

Players: The 56-man field includes Andre Agassi, defending champion Petr Korda, Ivan Lendl, MaliVai Washington, Aaron Krickstein, Brad Gilbert and Todd Martin.

Prize money: Minimum $625,000

Tickets: Available at the FitzGerald Center box office or through TicketMaster at (202) 432-7328. Single-session prices range from $6 to $35.

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