WASHINGTON -- After Andre Agassi lost the first set last night to Brett Steven, a fan screamed, "Don't tank now, Andre!"
It is unclear whether Agassi was giving his all in the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, but he lost to the 25-year-old New Zealander, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, before 6,741 at the Stadium Court of the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center.
"It's a much bigger match for him to beat me than for me to beat him, but it's no excuse for not playing your best," Agassi said.
Steven definitely played his best, connecting on 75 percent of his first serves and breaking Agassi three times in the first set.
After Agassi won the second set, Steven broke him at 3-3 in the third. It started with a little good fortune. At 30-all, Steven's backhand caught the net and the line for a winner. "I got lucky," an excited Steven said. "Sometimes these go in and sometimes these just miss. I think tonight I played above myself."
Steven, the 75th-ranked player in the world, followed his lucky shot with a skillful one. At break point, he brought Agassi to the net with a beautiful backhand drop volley.
Agassi's return, a backhand, hit the netpost and did not go over.
The 20th-ranked player in the world then threw his racket in the direction of his chair.
Steven served out the set.
Agassi, a two-time Legg Mason winner, leaves this tournament early for the third time. In 1992, after winning Wimbledon, Agassi lost his first match. He fell in the third round last year to Aaron Krickstein.
Agassi said he was unaware that some in the crowd thought he wasn't giving his all.
"I didn't hear that, and if I were to tank I sure wouldn't do it 6-4 in the third," Agassi said.
At least he showed up.
The world's No. 1 player, Pete Sampras, pulled out before the tournament began with an ankle injury.
No one has benefited more from Sampras' absence than qualifier Michael Tebbutt.
Tebbutt, the 145th-ranked player in the world, reached the quarterfinals by beating 69th-ranked Chuck Adams, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (10-8) in a wild match on Court 1.
"I feel lucky," said Tebbutt, who beat Sampras' replacement, Mark Knowles, in the first round. "I was disappointed at first because I wanted the opportunity to play him. I'm glad now that I didn't have to."
NOTES: In other notable matches yesterday, Krickstein defeated former No. 1 Mats Wilander, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-5). . . . David Wheaton ousted former No. 1 Ivan Lendl after staving off three match points, two in the third-set tiebreaker, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-8). . . . Other winners included No. 7 Stefan Edberg, Jason Stoltenberg, Thomas Enqvist and Byron Black.