- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Andre Agassi’s young son looks pretty good in that Genworth Financial commercial airing these days.

You probably have seen the ad by now. The young Agassi is ripping two-handed backhand returns to a disbelieving tennis instructor just before his mom, Steffi Graf, and dad pull up in a fancy SUV and say it’s time to go.

One problem, though: It’s not Agassi’s son, Jaden Gil.

“The commercial suggests that, but that’s Hollywood for you,” Agassi said.

There was nothing make-believe about Agassi’s performance last week, however. He won his first tournament in the last 15 months when he captured the Cincinnati Masters Series title with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Lleyton Hewitt.

The 34-year-old Agassi became the oldest winner of an ATP Tour event since 1989, when 37-year-old Jimmy Connors won back-to-back titles in Toulouse, France, and Tel Aviv. En route to his first title this year, Agassi went through a number of quality opponents, with Juan Ignacio Chela, Carlos Moya, Andy Roddick and Hewitt falling in succession.

“Cincinnati was a week that showed me if I let my game go I can certainly beat Chela, Moya, Roddick and Hewitt back-to-back,” Agassi said. “Those are four guys as an example that are going to be a concern to anybody. So if you can do it once, you can do it again and do it at the right spot and the right time.”

A hip injury earlier this spring may have shaken Agassi’s confidence a bit. Last week’s triumph rid Agassi of any doubts — and any thoughts of retirement.

“I don’t think much about [retirement], to be honest,” Agassi said. “When the time comes, it’s going to let me know. This is a time for me to work and prepare and try and compete with some of the best players in the world. That’s taking all my energy. I don’t have time to think about much else.”

Agassi, who rose to No. 6 in the world yesterday, rolls into the District as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic’s top seed. Agassi, one of only five men who have won all four Grand Slams, has won the tournament a record five times. He begins his quest for a sixth Legg Mason title on center court tonight against fan favorite Paul Goldstein of Rockville.

Agassi, in his 18th year as a professional, has outlasted his generation. The incomparable competition of the 1990s — Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Patrick Rafter and Michael Chang — is retired and long gone.

With his peers no longer playing, Agassi has to take on the next generation by himself.

“Great players leave holes when they leave. They’ll always be missed,” Agassi said. “The guys now are younger and different, and they’re trying to figure out their own way. So it’s a different challenge, but yeah, you definitely miss the ones you spent the most time with.”

Schalken shocker

Sjeng Schalken, the Legg Mason’s third seed, unexpectedly retired from the tournament yesterday, citing fatigue. Schalken, who reached the Legg Mason finals in 2001, got drilled 6-1 in the first set by Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller but was leading 1-0 in the second set before running out of gas.

Muller, 21, who finished No. 263 in the world last year, advances to the round of 16 and will play the winner of today’s Jan-Michael Gambill-Stefan Koubek match tomorrow. It was Muller’s Legg Mason debut and his first meeting with Schalken.

Final qualifiers

Even though the main draw is underway, there was still the unfinished business of filling up four spots through the qualification process yesterday. Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia defeated France’s Florent Serra in straight sets 6-4, 6-3. Switzerland’s Michel Kratochvil rallied to beat South African Wesley Moodie 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4. Israeli Harel Levy ousted Japan’s Takao Suzuki 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), and Yeu-Tzuoo of Taiwan beat American Robert Kendrick in three sets 2-6, 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-4).

Zimonjic will play Levy today in a first-round match, Kratochvil takes on American Jeff Salzenstein, and Wang meets Belgium’s Gilles Elseneer to complete the draw.

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