Players, promoters and patrons of the Sovran Bank Classic all seem to agree: The 1990 version of this oft-criticized tournament was unquestionably good, marked by better planning, improved facilities and the rare presence of a few marketable names.

Get commitments from Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and John McEnroe, and the people will come. With those guys in the field, the Sovran, held at the refurbished William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park, became a hot ticket. It drew 81,227 for the week, including more than 8,500 on Thursday night, when McEnroe and Agassi played back-to-back. Even on Saturday, after five hours of rain, the 7,500-seat stadium was filled, a scene duplicated each day of the tournament except the first.

Can it get better? Things certainly can get worse, which explains why tournament officials are spending little time mulling over the profits and success of the past week; they already are seeking ways to strengthen the event's infrastructure. To ensure future success, enticing Agassi, Chang and McEnroe to return next year is as important as getting them here in the first place.

"I think people in this market have long memories," said tournament director Josh Ripple. "The people that come to our tournament have been coming here for 10 or 15 years. They've seen it develop from a small, intimate event played on park courts with a few benches to what it is now. They've seen tremendous improvements.

"Last year, the field that was promoted {McEnroe and Connors withdrew} didn't come to fruition. This year, thank God, the field came through. We sold a lot of tickets last year but people didn't come. This year, with McEnroe, Agassi and Chang, we had guys people wanted to see."

Ripple and other ProServ representatives met yesterday to evaluate the tournament, which benefited the Washington Area Tennis Patrons Foundation. After a short trip to Atlanta for a meeting of tournament directors on the women's circuit -- Ripple also runs the Virginia Slims of Washington -- he will start working toward next year.

"I'll be on the road between now and the U.S. Open, talking with players and riding the heels of a great week, just to reinforce to those players that Washington is a great place to play tennis," Ripple said.

The players haven't been hard to convince. After years of cramped trailers and slow clay courts, the Sovran, which has switched to U.S. Open-type hard courts, now provides its participants with free accommodations at the Washington Court Hotel, private showers and spacious locker rooms, and a big-time tennis facility -- all of which makes the intense heat and humidity easier to handle.

Said Agassi, who routed Jim Grabb, 6-1, 6-4, in Sunday's final: "I didn't even recognize this place. It's truly enjoyable for the players."

Even happier than the players is Donald Dell, the ProServ chairman who founded the tournament with John Harris in 1969 "as a labor of love." In the event's early years, Dell's ability to attract name players, such as Arthur Ashe, had nothing to do with amenities for the players; at the time, Dell's influence was derived from his status as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team.

"From a tournament planning and organizing point of view, we've done awfully well," Dell said. "It has improved vastly. Whereas last year the stadium was being completed the week before the tournament, it was pretty much ready for this year.

"That we now have a permanent facility allowed us to make a quantum leap to major league status. We've felt like we've had major league tennis in Washington all along, but you have to change with the times."

As for change, Dell said he still has a few ideas on how to improve the 22-year-old event, although he said no major alterations will be made for some time.