WASHINGTON -- Ivan Lendl, the No. 1 seed at the Newsweek Tennis Classic, changed his shirt three times, his racket twice. He transferred at least a pound of sawdust from his right shorts pocket to the handle of his racket, and he wiped the sweat from his body with a large white towel between nearly every point.
Lendl was sweating yesterday, and it had as much to do with Robbie Weiss, the 134th-ranked player in the world, as it did with the afternoon sun. Weiss was relentless as he eventually ran Lendl, ranked No. 6 in the world, into the ground, 2-6, 7-6 (7-6), 6-4.
"Obviously, he's getting older," Weiss said. "He has had a couple losses lately to a few guys he shouldn't lose to. Guys on the tour notice that. I knew I had a shot to beat him, and he made some errors that he wouldn't have made earlier in his career."
Lendl looked in complete control of this match, being up a set and a break in the second, when all at once he could not get a first serve in. All at once he missed a few easy forehands, double-faulted away a break advantage and began railing over line calls.
Lendl's every expression was there for all to see. Every grimace and groan, every instance of self-disdain, was obvious.
"I lost all the key points," he said. "It happens sometimes. Sunday, I made them all and won [a tournament in Brookline, Mass.]. Today, I didn't make any. The heat didn't bother me, but the humidity did. It was a difficult transition from Boston to here."
The humidity didn't bother No. 2 seed and defending Classic winner Petr Korda yesterday, as he persevered to defeat Brian MacPhie, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, nor did it bother No. 3 seed
MaliVai Washington, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Luiz Mattar.
And last night, Andre Agassi and Johan Carlsson entertained a nearly full house at the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, before Agassi, the No. 6 seed, advanced, 6-3, 6-2.
This kind of loss has plagued Lendl all season. He lost in the first round of the Australian and French opens and in the second round at Wimbledon.
"It is just a bad cycle," said Lendl, 33. "All you do is just keep trying. It will change again. I hit a bad spell last year and then came out of it. There is no reason to panic."
When Weiss was down that break in the second set, he didn't panic. He evened the set, when Lendl double-faulted, and forced the tie-breaker, which he won, 7-5.
In the third set, both players seemed loose and neither seemed interested in breaking the other's serve, until the eighth game. At that point, Lendl had a break point, but Weiss saved it with a cross-court volley and kept things even at 4.
And then, on Lendl's serve, Weiss chased down three balls he had no right to get and notched the break when Lendl's backhand went wide.
"He played really well early," Weiss said. "He was up a break in the second, and I was tight and tentative. But then he started missing his first serves, and I got him on the defensive. A friend of mine, who knows Lendl, told me if I could hang with him to four-all or five-all in the final set, he gets tight. So I just concentrated on that.
"Any time you're in position to beat someone in the Top 10, it's nerve-racking. I don't even remember match point. What happened?"
Weiss was serving for the set. But he had watched a 40-15 advantage turn to deuce, as Lendl saved two set points. Nerves were tingling. They had been playing for two hours and 45 minutes. Lendl hit a lob that forced Weiss to twist his back to the net, leap into the air and block the overhead cross court.
"I was just trying to get the ball back, and all I could think was, 'Oh, man, this guy isn't going down,' " he said. But Lendl did go down, and Robbie Weiss jumped and ran to the grandstands. He reached up and did a high-five with a man in the crowd. "I have no idea who he was," Weiss said. "At that point, I didn't care."