Agassi wears down Edberg in Classic final


WASHINGTON -- The Legg Mason Tennis Classic final pitted two completely different personalities with different games and different things to prove.

Stefan Edberg, the gentlemanly, serve-and-volleying Swede and the defending champion, has been written off by many for being in the twilight of his career and having lost all desire to be the best.

Andre Agassi, the brash, overpowering showman, an American at the peak of his game, is trying to prove that he can maintain the consistency of being the top player in the world.

In the first final here between the top two seeds in six years, Agassi prevailed, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, before 7,500 at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center. With the $90,000 win, Agassi ended Edberg's nine-match winning streak here dating back to last year.

Agassi, 25, had a bit more left in him than Edberg, 29, who played his third consecutive three-setter in as many days. During the two-hour, five-minute match, Agassi conserved energy after clearly tanking the second set.

"It was extremely hot," Agassi said. "You're just trying to survive out there. Here, it's 120 on the court with 80 percent humidity. The problem is that when Stefan got up a break in the second set and I knew that I was hurting on a physical level, you've got a choice to make.

"You've got to go for it and try to beat him in the second or possibly just spend that set to get your mind back focused, try to cool down a little bit, try not to move too much and save it for a nice, little burst there in the third. That's what I felt like I did, and I had to do to win today."

Edberg, who had been bothered by a sore shoulder for the past three weeks, stayed near the baseline often.

"I had to stay back because of my shoulder," Edberg said. "It's tough playing your best tennis out there in the heat. He got up early in the third set, and that was very important. I played a lot of hours in the last couple of days. He probably had more energy going in."

Agassi, who is 79-11 since last year's Classic, broke Edberg in the sixth game of the first set, after Edberg dumped a volley into the net and double-faulted.

After holding at love, Edberg broke back, attacking Agassi's second serve and coming into the net.

But at 5-4, Agassi broke Edberg to take the set after two consecutive wide shots by Edberg.

Despite winning the first set, Agassi didn't look nearly as confi

dent as he had all week. In the second set, he hit returns long, tried to volley from midcourt and was even out-rallied by Edberg.

It was obvious Agassi was affected by his first afternoon match of the tournament.

Agassi regrouped and held the first game of the decisive set.

But in the next game, it was Edberg who would entertain the crowd. With a lob falling behind him, Edberg hit a magnificent between-the-legs shot that ricocheted off Agassi's racket into the net. Agassi broke Edberg, though, keeping him back and running him wide with his hard ground strokes.

Agassi jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

Edberg would hold his next two service games with difficulty.

With double break point in the seventh game, Edberg couldn't convert, falling behind 5-2.

So, Edberg found himself in the same position as in his quarterfinal match late Friday night against Cristiano Caratti, when he came back from a 5-2 deficit.

"Obviously, I knew I could come back," Edberg said. "Obviously, I knew it would be a lot tougher against Agassi. But I still thought about the match with Caratti."

Falling behind 15-40, Edberg held serve after knocking off both match points, volleying into an open court with Agassi out of position.

Edberg then broke Agassi to put it back on serve at 4-5. A frustrated Agassi knocked down a television microphone on the court during the changeover.

In the next game, Edberg rallied from love-30 to go up 40-30. That prompted Agassi to throw his racket into the side wall, earning a code warning. After Edberg held serve following Agassi's unforced error, Agassi, feeling ill, disappeared into the locker room.

"I more or less felt like I was going to have a heat stroke," Agassi said. "When he got the break back after having the two match points on the serve, I kind of felt like at that stage that I probably wasn't going to win the match.

"Heavy frustration . . . from 2-5, 15-40, and all of the sudden it was 5-all, I felt like he had the total momentum. But you're so close to the end there that you're just going on fumes."

Agassi opened the 11th game by passing Edberg after a poor drop volley attempt by Edberg. He went up 40-15, only to double-fault and then hit a volley into the net. Agassi finally converted on his fifth game point after Edberg missed a lob by inches.

In the last game, Edberg fell behind two match points again at 15-40, but could not summon the same heroics this time.

In the doubles final, sixth-seeded Olivier Delaitre and Jeff Tarango defeated fifth-seeded Petr Korda and Cyril Suk, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

It was the second match of the day for Korda and Suk, who won their rain-delayed match with Don Johnson and Kenny Thorne, 6-3, 6-3, in the morning.

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