Michael Chang watched as his opponent's shot sailed toward the edge of the court, spinning toward the line. He knew his entire week hung in the balance, so when the ball seemed to bounce out, he exhaled a sigh of relief. It was a short breath.
The umpire called the ball good, and Chang went on to lose his second-round match at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic last night to Paraguay's Ramon Delgado, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. Chang questioned the call more than once, but he got no satisfaction as he was forced to exit the tournament he has won twice.
"It's very irritating," Chang said of the point, which gave Delgado a break late in the third set. "I thought it was a pretty clear ball. The umpire said he didn't see it because the ball was low, and it just came at the worst possible time. I had fought my way back in the third set, and then that happened."
Chang wasn't the only player questioning line calls. Rockville native Paul Goldstein got one he disliked so much that he collapsed onto his stomach, laying on the court for a moment. But unlike Chang, Goldstein was able to battle through to victory, defeating Martin Damm, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, to advance to the third round. He will be joined by No. 5 seed Alex Corretja, who squeaked past Italian Gianluca Pozzi, 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-5, and No. 3 seed Tim Henman, who defeated Peter Wessels, 7-5, 7-5.
No. 2 seed Andre Agassi took just 50 minutes to roll over qualifier Mikael Tillstrom, 6-1, 6-1.
The victory marked Agassi's first appearance at William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center this year, and the fans roared their appreciation for the man who has won this tournament four times in nine years. But while Agassi may have had the largest gallery of the night, he hardly had the most enthusiastic. That belonged to Goldstein, who rode alternate waves of joy and despair in his match against Damm.
Goldstein started the match by rushing to a 5-2 lead, and he came within two points of closing out the set. That's when the nerves attacked. Goldstein tightened up, and Damm took advantage, winning eight of the next nine games to go up a set and a break.
"He was close to winning that first set, and then when he didn't, he got disappointed in his performance while he was still performing," said Goldstein's coach, Scott McCain. "He just needed to calm down. He so much wants to do well at home."
When Damm began serving with a 4-3 second-set lead, the large crowd fell silent, fearing the worst. But Goldstein continued to pound away, loosening up with each stroke. He crested to three game points before he finally broke Damm, and once the damage was done and the score was 4-4, Goldstein began to take control.
He held serve. He grabbed a set point in the next game, although he could not convert it. But he kept working, finally breaking Damm in the set's final game to turn the tide of the match. There were a few more tense moments, especially on a point that kept Goldstein running from one side of the court to the other, but he managed to break Damm to go up, 4-2, in the third set. He eked out his serve and then broke Damm again to finish the match, throwing his racket behind him and dropping to his knees after Damm hit the final ball wide.
"That was just awesome," Goldstein said, still giddy a half-hour after the match. "The stands were packed, up the top of the stairs, shoulder to shoulder. The electricity was incredible. The only thing I can compare it to is the U.S. Open when I played Pete Sampras on center court. It was supercool."
Coming off Stadium Court just a few minutes after Goldstein finished up on the Grandstand, Chang provided a much different picture. Upset with what he felt was a bad call and disappointed in his loss, he sat quietly answering questions about yet another setback in a summer of frustration.
"From here on out, everything can only head in one direction," he said. "It's been one of those years. I've had so many early-round losses, and I just have to take it and move on. I've spent too much of my time this year sulking and it doesn't do me any good."
Legg Mason Tournament
Where: William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.
When: Through Sunday.
Tickets: Available through TicketMaster, $6-$60.
Today's featured matches: 4 p.m., Ramon Delgado vs. Todd Martin, followed by Yevgeny Kafelnikov vs. Justin Gimelstob; 7 p.m., Alex Corretja vs. Paul Goldstein, followed by Bjorn Phau vs. Andre Agassi.