Edberg warms up to Washington


WASHINGTON -- Despite heat that hit triple digits, numerous rain delays, sparse crowds and a liquidated field from many top seeds falling early, Stefan Edberg wants to come back to Washington.

Why not? Yesterday, Edberg's seven-day stay in the nation's capital produced yet another title and an $87,500 check.

Edberg ended the week with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 14 seed Jason Stoltenberg to take the title at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

"I hope to be back next year," Edberg told the crowd as he accepted his trophy.

"It was a great opportunity to come here to Washington," Edberg said in a post-match news conference. "I think I did the right thing. I accomplished the most important thing -- winning the tournament."

Fighting off 110-degree heat courtside, Edberg and Stoltenberg both had trouble in the first set as each was broken twice in the first nine games. Edberg went ahead 3-0 in the first before Stoltenberg closed within one game at 5-4.

Stoltenberg's shot at 15-40 sailed wide, handing Edberg his third service break and the set, 6-4.

Edberg took control in the second set, as his familiar serve-and-volleygame kick-started and he was able to break Stoltenberg twice again. The latter occurred on match point when Stoltenberg's second serve, at 15-40, slammed into the net for a double fault.

"It went sort of up and down in the first set," Edberg said. "I took the initiative and got ahead and he broke me back, I got ahead, he broke me back. The second set was a little bit easier."

Despite the loss, Stoltenberg was anything but upset. "When I sit down and think, it's been a great week," Stoltenberg said. "It was the final, not the first round. I hung in there, I tried my best. If I have done my best and I come off and lose, I can accept this. . . . I beat some players I haven't beat before this week."

And if tradition speaks for anything, Stoltenberg's bridesmaid finish could be a blessing. In past years, virtual unknowns Todd Martin and Henrik Holm have finished as runners-up in this tournament but went on to become knowns. Holm, a finalist in 1992, pulled to No. 17 in the world a year later, and Martin, last year's finalist, is ranked No. 6.

Edberg, at No. 7 in the world, came to Washington with the intention of getting some early hard-court preparation for the U.S. Open after two early exits from Grand Slam events this year.

"This has helped tremendously," Edberg said. "I have been struggling. Choosing to play here was as good as it can get. I've got my confidence back. Things are looking a lot better. If I can be playing the way I have been playing this week, I have a good chance at the U.S. Open."

Edberg, who did not give up a set all week, was accepted gleefully as the champion by the crowd, which has not been treated to high-seed competition in some time.

Minus top-ranked player Pete Sampras, who bowed out with tendinitis before the tournament started, Edberg became the top seed. And he behaved like one, playing almost flawlessly all week.

In the doubles final, second-seeded Grant Connell and Patrick Galbraith topped Jonas Bjorkman and Jakob Hlasek, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.

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