WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England -- Doug Flach blanched when an ATP official asked him to reach into a hat Sunday and draw his opening-round Wimbledon opponent.
"I'd never do that," Flach said then. "It's bad karma. If I do that, I'm going to draw [Andre] Agassi."
And then Flach reached into the hat and pulled Agassi's name.
Flach didn't blanch yesterday on Court Two, the court known as the graveyard for top seeds. Instead, he served 22 aces, returned Agassi's serve superbly and ousted the No. 3 seed, 2-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 7-6 (8-6).
"I'm so excited, as excited as anyone could be at this moment," said Flach, a journeyman qualifier who is ranked 281st in the world. "This is the highlight of my career. The biggest moment. Last month I was playing in satellite tournaments just to get my ranking up high enough so I could play in the qualifiers here. In January my ranking was 600."
Agassi was one of four seeds to lose on opening day at Wimbledon, joining No. 6 Michael Chang, No. 8 Jim Courier and No. 15 Arnaud Boetsch. With No. 7 Thomas Muster out with an injury, it is only the second time at Wimbledon during the Open era that just four of the top eight men remain after the first round.
Chang, also playing on Court Two, lost to Spain's Alberto Costa, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-1), 6-4; Courier, a Wimbledon runner-up three years ago, fell to Jonathan Stark, 6-2, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4; and Boetsch was beaten by Alexander Radulescu of Germany, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 5-7, 9-7.
"I was definitely off my game," said Agassi. "I just couldn't put enough shots together. You have to play well at the right times -- or at least hit a decent enough shot to win the point at the right time. But it didn't quite happen.
"Doug was definitely on his game and the strength of his game is his return of serve. He returned well today. And at the net, he had good hands, so a lot of times he hit some nice returns and came in behind them to put a lot of pressure on."
It is the first time Agassi has lost in the first round here since 1987, when he played Wimbledon for the first time. Last year, he came in ranked No. 1 in the world and reached the semifinals. The 1992 Wimbledon champion's ouster is particularly painful, coming as it has right after his second-round loss at the French Open.
"Was it just two bad days at the French and here?" he said, repeating the question. "I certainly haven't been playing well and the loss at the French, the disappointment of that, probably kept me from really attacking the needs of my game afterward. So I've just got to shake it off, prepare for the Olympics and try to turn it around."
On the other hand, it was a marvelous performance by Flach, 24, who is the younger brother of doubles star Ken Flach. His total tour winnings this season up until yesterday were $2,250. Beating Agassi assured him of another 9,000 pounds, about $14,400.
"Being in that position, you can imagine how nervous I was playing in the last qualifying match," Flach said of the match in which he rallied from two sets down to win. "I thought that was about as nervous as I could get, but I didn't really know how nervous I could be until I walked out to play Andre."
But if he was nervous, it didn't take long for him to settle down. He won the second set with a 7-1 tiebreaker, staved off an Agassi run in the third set and fought off a break point in the fourth with a diving, stretched-out return.
"That break point was a weird point," Flach said. "I'd never dove straight out for a ball like that before. And after I'd hit it, I didn't know where I was, I was so, like, freaked out. I'd like to see that one again on a replay."
L Agassi noted the way Flach made the big plays and he didn't.
"Two of the three sets I lost were close ones that I let slip away and in that fourth set, I worked my way back, all through the set, but I couldn't come out with the right shots to get the break and then in the tiebreaker . . . well, that's how it is on grass courts. If you're a little off, you make errors left and right and two tiebreakers can go one way or the other. It just didn't work out for me."
Today's feature matches
(Seeds in parentheses)
Men: Yevgeny Kafelnikov (5), Russia, vs. Tim Henman, Britain. Michael Stich (10), Germany, vs. Sjeng Schalken, Netherlands.
Women: Steffi Graf (1), Germany, vs. Ludmila Richterova, Czech Republic. Adriana Serra-Zanetti, Italy, vs. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (4), Spain. Veronika Martinek, Germany, vs. Jana Novotna (6), Czech Republic.
Pub Date: 6/25/96