WASHINGTON -- They filed in in droves to see him and he gave them all the flash and pizazz they could have asked for.
Decked out in a debonair red, white and black tennis outfit complete with white tennis shoes with simulated black spats, Andre Agassi took the gentlemanlike approach to winning last night at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, downing unseeded Maurice Ruah, 6-2, 7-5.
In front of a sellout crowd of 7,500 at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, Agassi rarely misstepped, vigorously returning the 23-year-old Venezuelan's serves and dominating every aspect of the match. However, afterward, Agassi didn't feel he played at the top of his game.
"Today I was really uncomfortable with my game, honestly," Agassi said. "I didn't feel I was serving well, hitting well or concentrating well."
This was the first time Agassi had faced Ruah, who defeated Columbia's Christian Hill to advance to yesterday's game.
"All I knew was what [coach] Brad [Gilbert] knew," Agassi said. "Hopefully, if you play the game right, he's worried about you."
"I don't often get to play in the stadium," Ruah said. "I was a bit tight at first. As the match went on I felt a little bit better. He didn't know much about me, but even though I might have seen him on TV, I didn't know that much about him either. I couldn't see the way his ball moved or some of the things he would do to get out of trouble.
Gilbert, in addition to being Agassi's coach, was the No. 10 seed in the tournament until he was ousted yesterday afternoon by unseeded Jonas Bjorkman, 6-1, 7-5.
"What keeps me motivated to play is matches like that," said Gilbert, 32. "I feel I can get better. I felt like I just got off to a bad start.
A major factor in Gilbert's downfall was a pulled lower abdominal muscle suffered weeks ago.
"I'm still struggling with it," Gilbert said. "It just gets frustrating doing treatment every day. I think I'll take a few weeks off. It's hard to practice at 20 percent and then take it up to 100 percent in the game."
Another crowd favorite, No. 9 seed MaliVai Washington, came from behind to dispose of unseeded Roberto Jabali, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 6-3.
In an early match, Brandywine's Bill Barber defeated Alex O'Brien, 6-4, 6-4. In doubles play, Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander defeated Alex Antonitsch and Alexander Mronz, 6-4, 6-4.
LEGG MASON CLASSIC
When: Through Sunday
Where: William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, Washington
Tickets: Prices vary depending on day and time. Individual session tickets can be ordered by calling (202) 432-SEAT. For box seat and group sales information, call (703) 276-4274.