- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Despite a partisan crowd backing his every shot, Rockville’s Paul Goldstein was outclassed again by Andre Agassi.

Agassi defeated Goldstein 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, beating him for the third time in three meetings.

In fact, Agassi, the world’s No.6 player and the tournament’s top seed, has never lost a set to Goldstein. He beat Goldstein 6-3, 6-2 in the round of 16 at the 2000 Legg Mason and 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in the second round of the 2001 Australian Open.

Goldstein, who was given a wild-card entry into the main draw at the discretion of the tournament director, led Agassi 3-1 in the first set before collapsing. Agassi advanced to play Denmark’s Kristian Pless, who beat 19-year-old American Brian Baker 6-3, 3-7, 7-6 (2), in the round of 16 tomorrow.

At 34, Agassi is the oldest player on the ATP Tour. Last week, Agassi won the Cincinnati Masters when he beat Australian Lleyton Hewitt in the finals and ended a 151/2-month title drought. The win made Agassi the oldest winner of an ATP event since 1989, when 37-year-old Jimmy Connors won back-to-back titles in Toulouse, France, and Tel Aviv. Hewitt is the Legg Mason’s second seed.

With the U.S. Open in two weeks, Agassi is peaking at the right time. Agassi has played in Washington every year since 1990. The FitzGerald Center’s hardcourt surface and Washington’s summer humidity make the Legg Mason a perfect tuneup for the final Grand Slam of the year.

Agassi, who has won the Legg Mason a record five times, is one of only five men to have won all four Grand Slams singles championships. He has won eight Slams overall in his 18-year career, assuring his place among the game’s greats.

For most of the spring, Agassi has been bothered by a hip problem, which caused him to lose some confidence because he couldn’t perform at the level he wanted. But he’s not feeling any pain in his hip at the moment, and his recent play shows it.

In other center-court action, American Jan-Michael Gambill beat Austrian Stefan Koubek 7-5, 6-4. Gambill moved on to the round of 16 to face Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller, who advanced after just one set when third-seeded Sjeng Schalken retired, citing fatigue.

Gambill, who was named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, had lost in the first round of his last three tournaments since reaching the third round at Wimbledon.

“I did what I had to do last week practice-wise,” Gambill said. “I feel that I’m hitting the ball a lot better, and I’m not playing as well as I can from the baseline, but I’m certainly going in the right direction — hitting the ball hard, control the points but also learn when I need to play good defense, play good defense.”

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