In sharp contrast to the baby-boomer batallion that came out to cheer Tuesday night for John McEnroe, yesterday's Sovran Bank Classic crowd was significantly younger -- and neon-clad. It could only mean one thing: Andre Agassi was here.
Agassi -- teeny-bopper idol, fashion rebel, and the tournament's top seed -- pleased his legions at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park, winning his second-round match (he had a first-round bye) over feisty Brad Pearce, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3.
But it wasn't easy. Agassi faced set point at 7-6 in the tiebreaker before saving himself with a perfect backhand winner and taking the next two points for the set.
"If he had won that point, it would have only made the match a lot longer," said the fourth-ranked Agassi. "And I don't think he wanted that."
It sounded cocky, but Pearce said the heat did get to him. "When I broke him in the first set to go up, 4-2, that's when it really hit me. At a time when I should've had an adrenaline surge, I was feeling very low. I had chills, and I was just trying to get the balls back in play."
In the evening, the spotlight moved to fifth-seeded Michael Chang, and the 18-year-old Californian didn't disappoint. But, like Agassi, he was challenged. Steve Bryan, the 1990 NCAA singles champion from Texas, pushed Chang to a second-set tiebreaker before losing, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).
Bryan, who turned pro Monday, was flustered by two questionable line calls in the tiebreaker, giving Chang leads of 3-0 and 6-3.
"I thought they were both in," said Bryan, who had the crowd's vocal support on each. "I thought I knew how to deal with situations like that, but maybe I don't."
There was one mild upset in the afternoon, as Michael Stich, a hard-hitting West German ranked No. 73, thumped eighth-seeded Soviet Alexander Volkov, 6-4, 7-5.
Derrick Rostagno beat 13th-seeded Gary Muller, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, but it was less of an upset. Rostagno, who was a semifinalist here in 1988, plays third-seeded McEnroe tonight at 7 in a rematch of their first-round encounter at Wimbledon, in which Rostagno upset the three-time champion.
Two other seeded players survived mild scares in afternoon matches. Tenth-seeded Jakob Hlasek was forced into a first-set tiebreaker by Nicolas Pereira before dispatching the Venezuelan, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.
And in the Stadium Court's first match, seventh-seed Richey Reneberg needed three sets to beat Jason Stoltenberg, who won the first set handily and had two break points in the first game of the second before blowing the game and bowing out, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Dan Goldie, who grew up in McLean but now lives in California, felt to No. 14 Todd Witsken, 6-3, 6-4, in the night's final match.
In other second-round matches, Grant Connell defeated qualifier Jimmy Brown, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4); Darren Cahill topped Miguel Nido, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2; and 16th-seeded Andrew Sznajder bashed Marcos Ondruska, 6-3, 6-0.
But the afternoon belonged to Agassi, the flashy 20-year-old from Las Vegas. There was heavy cheering and more than a few screams Agassi, who glowed with his own share of neon -- including a neon green racket frame -- walked onto Stadium Court.
But the crowd slowly changed its loyalty when Pearce ended up on the short end of several close calls in the first set, which broke Pearce's confidence -- and his heart. After each player broke the other twice, each held serve to force the tiebreaker.
Pearce took early control and led, 3-1, after Agassi hit a wide-open forehand into the net. But Pearce double-faulted when his serve hit the tape and fell just inside the net, and Agassi followed with a disputed ace that had Pearce arguing and the crowd whistling.
The call stood, and Agassi won the next two points to lead, 5-3. But Pearce wasn't done yet. Leading by 6-5, Agassi hit into the net twice, giving Pearce set point. But he couldn't put it away.
When the marathon set finally ended with Pearce's lob falling long, Agassi lifted his forefinger into the air and ran to his chair.
Pearce gave one last surge in the first game of the second set, holding three break points before Agassi again bailed himself out with his ground strokes.
"At times, I felt like he wasn't pressuring me a lot," said Agassi. "And I felt I could slow things down and conserve energy. I didn't want to do more than I needed to to win."
Agassi's antics didn't end when the match did. He hit a ball into the crowd behind him, strolled to his chair, removed his shirt and threw it to a girl in the fourth row.
Agassi will play Israel's Gilad Bloom -- the 15th seed who defeated Jared Palmer, 6-2, 6-4 yesterday -- today in the second match of the evening session.
Chang has to play in the afternoon, meeting Simon Youl in the second match of the day (Brad Gilbert and Sznajder do battle at noon to start things). Youl beat Robbie Weiss, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2) yesterday.
Chang struggled at times against Bryan, who had a set point when he was up, 6-5, in the second set. But Chang won the point and the next two to win the game and force the tiebreaker.
"I knew the only way to win points against him was to force errors or hit winners myself," said No. 23-ranked Chang. "And he doesn't make too many errors."
Down by 0-2 in the tiebreaker after going "for two shots I shouldn't have gone for," Bryan blistered a forehand passing shot down the line that he obviously thought was good. But the line judge disagreed and the chair umpire didn't overrule.
Then, down by 3-4, Bryan had another close call -- on a forehand cross-court shot -- go against him. Both times, the crowd booed and whistled loudly.
Chang wouldn't say whether he thought the balls were in or not.
"It's not my job to call the shots," he said.
The most significant upset of the day belonged to Stich, who smoked a tournament-best 122 mph serve in the fourth game. "I knew I would hold my serve," he said. "He never had a chance to break me."
However, Volkov did break him in the second game of the match, going up by 3-0 before Stich overpowered him the rest of the way.
Volkov laughed when asked about his one service break of Stich. "I didn't break him," he said. "He just played badly that game."
Reneberg said he had doubts he could come back against Pereira. "After that first set, I honestly didn't think I would win," said the Houston native. "But then I think he got a little tired. He started making some errors and he didn't have as much on his serve."
Stoltenberg, who first played tennis on a court with strings for lines and chicken wire for a net in his native Australian outback, said that if he could have converted break-point in that first game of the second set, the result might have been different.
"I had my fair share of chances," said Stoltenberg, 20. "I couldn't keep it going after the first set. I'm not sure what's keeping me from winning, but I'm sure I'll work it out."
Hlasek, who reached No. 8 in late 1988 before a stress fracture in his foot in 1989, said his comeback is moving slowly.
"It took me six years to get into the top 10, and I can't expect to get back there in a matter of weeks," said Hlasek, who has fallen to No. 53. "I was proud to be in the top 10, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to stay there."
Richey Reneberg (7), Houston, def. Jason Stoltenberg, Australia, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3; Michael Stich, West Germany, def. Alexander Volkov (8), Soviet Union, 6-4, 7-5; Andre Agassi (1), Las Vegas, def. Brad Pearce, Provo, Utah, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3; Michael Chang (5), Placentia, Calif., def. Steve Bryan, Katy, Tex., 6-2, 7-6 (7-3); Derrick Rostagno, St. Augustine, Fla., def. Gary Muller (13), South Africa, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2; Jakob Hlasek (10), Switzerland, def. Nicolas Pereira, Venezuela, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3; Gilad Bloom (15), Israel, def. Jared Palmer, Saddlebrook, Fla., 6-2, 6-4; Simon Youl, Australia, def. Robbie Weiss, Wheeling, Ill., 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2); Darren Cahill, Australia, def. Miguel Nido, Puerto Rico, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2; Andrew Sznajder (16), Canada, def. Marcos Ondruska, South Africa, 6-3, 6-0; Grant Connell, Canada, def. Jimmy Brown, Largo, Fla., 6-3, 7-6 (7-4); Todd Witsken (14), Carmel, Ind., def. Dan Goldie, Redwood City, Calif., 6-3, 6-4.
Ken FLach, St. Louis-Robert Seguso, Boca Raton, Fla., def. Marius Barnard, South Africa-Tom Mercer, Pittsburgh, 6-4, 6-3; Scott Devries, Suisun, Calif-David MacPherson, Australia, def. Royce Deppe, South Africa-Byron Talbot, South Africa, 6-2, 6-4; Alex Hombrecher, Suisun, Calif.-MaliVai Washington, Swartz Creek, Mich., def. Paul Annacone, East Hamton, N.Y.-Christo Van Rensburg, South Africa, 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 6-4.
Scott Davis, Los Angeles-David Pate, Las Vegas def. Brod Dyke, Australia-Stefan Kruger, South Africa, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2; Jason Stoltenberg, Australia-Simon Youl, Australia def. Kelly Evernden, New Zealand-Niolas Pereira, Venezuela, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5); Daren Cahill, Australia-Mark Kratzmann, Australia def. Shelby Cannon, Houston-Kelly Jones, San Diego, 6-3, 6-4.