- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2000

Before a sellout crowd at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center stadium court, Paul Goldstein realized that playing Andre Agassi in Goldstein's backyard is no different than playing him anywhere else. Beating him requires nearly flawless play.

The No. 16 seed wasn't nearly that good last night. Although Agassi made his share of mistakes, Goldstein could not capitalize on the few good chances he had in a 3-6, 2-6 loss to the world's No. 1 player.

Goldstein exited in the third round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic one year after beating Alex Corretja on his way to the quarterfinals. He received countless cheers of "c'mon, Paul," but no hometown encouragement could help him turn the tide.

Agassi has now won 12 consecutive matches at Legg Mason without dropping a set. He advances to Friday night's quarterfinals where hewill meet another up-and-coming American, 17-year-old Andy Roddick.

"It's impossible to prepare for a match of this magnitude playing someone the caliber of Andre Agassi," said Goldstein, who was doing so for the first time. "You don't know how your body is going to react, how your mind is going to react until you get out there and start reacting. Chalk up another good experience."

Goldstein was scrambling to react to Agassi on several occasions last night. A shaky backhand and a 50 percent first-serve percentage doomed him as well in the defeat, which took 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Trying to beat Agassi, known as the game's top service returner, by trading groundstrokes is like challenging Garry Kasparov to a chess match. But Goldstein, at 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, had no choice he went right at Agassi.

"I thought he played a lot more aggressively than I have seen him play in the past," said Agassi, who saved both break points Goldstein had. "He was taking his chances… . A lot of guys come out and try to do that and make mistakes. But he came out and I thought he was playing solid and stepping it up."

Goldstein was essentially doing suicide sprints from sideline to sideline from the outset, running down Agassi's groundstrokes. Goldstein didn't leave as many balls short in the court as he did in his second-round victory, but Agassi made him pay for nearly every one.

The first set was even at 3-all, 30-all with Goldstein serving when the Rockville native botched an overhead to give Agassi a break point. Goldstein then dumped a forehand in the net to trail 3-4.

"A couple times I thought I put myself in a position to put a dent in his armor," Goldstein said. "And I didn't take advantage of those opportunities, really, at all."

Goldstein's service game at 3-5 went to deuce and he fought off one set point, but faltered on another backhand on the second.

Agassi left a window of opportunity in serving to open the second set, when Goldstein got to deuce and then earned a break point. But Agassi closed out the game with a forehand winner of Goldstein's soft service return and an ace. It was Goldstein's only real chance at breaking Agassi, who then broke Goldstein on three unforced errors for a 2-0 lead and had seized control.

"Once I get momentum," Agassi said, "I'm a little tougher to beat."

Goldstein got to 30-all on Agassi's next two service games, but the 1999 world No. 1 closed out the games with two aces each time, as if using something extra he had in reserve to get out of trouble.

Goldstein's mobility was an issue because he had not played in the last three weeks because of tendinitis in his left ankle. He said Wednesday that the ankle was not 100 percent but was not greatly hindering his movement. It did not appear to hold him back last night.

In describing his performance, Goldstein said he felt pressure not so much from the crowd as from facing a player of Agassi's caliber. Still, he was playing in a 7,500-seat stadium in his home town. "It was a big stage," he said.

Although Goldstein took just five games from Agassi, the six-time Grand Slam champion came away impressed.

"[Goldstein] makes you work to beat him, which is not easy to do day in and day out," Agassi said.

Tomorrow's matches are split into two sessions, afternoon and evening. Agassi plays Roddick in the third afternoon match session, starting at 3:30 p.m. or after, depending on the time of the two previous matches.

Following the noon match, No. 5 seed Jan-Michael Gambill, a 6-0, 6-1 winner over Christophe Rochus, faces No. 3 seed Nicolas Kiefer, who beat Lorenzo Manta 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

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