Either his allergies held him back, or his pulled abdominal muscle did, or playing so few matches in the last few months did. But Alex Corretja, the No. 5 seed at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, was able to put everything behind him and gather enough nerve to slip past Gianluca Pozzi, 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-5, at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center last night.

Pozzi used his soft return game to slow down Corretja's power, which was drained anyway by fatigue. After reaching a No. 2 ranking in February, Corretja had to deal with allergies all summer, an abdominal muscle that he pulled on July 6 and the fatigue that has gone along with not playing much.

"This has been the first time in weeks that I've been able to practice three or four hours a day," he said. "I had felt so bad for the last three months."

He would have felt worse if he had lost last night. Midway through the second set, he was so worn out that he didn't attack as much as he is used to when he's 100 percent. The match lasted 2 hours 34 minutes.

"I took it easy because I was so tired," he said. "I got tired after the first set."

His allergies haven't helped. Corretja has a laundry list of allergies, including certain foods, dust, aspirin and anti-inflammatory pills. At the French Open, he said he woke up every morning with red eyes and skin irritations on his hands.

"I think to play for so long today is good for me though," he said. "When you're out of rhythm, playing for a while helps."

Washingtons Selected

The USTA announced its 16 wild cards for the U.S. Open yesterday, but Mashiska Washington found out that he had been selected in a curious way.

Washington, 24, was hanging out at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic when another player told him that he and his older brother, MaliVai, had been selected.

"It was unexpected finding out the way I did," Washington said. "I mean, I think that anyone who's an American should be able to compete."

Other men's wild cards include James Blake, Bob Bryan, Taylor Dent, Kevin Kim, Phillip King and Jeff Morrison. The women's wild cards are Erica deLong, Laura Granville, Jennifer Hopkins, Zuzana Lesenarova, Melissa Middleton, Meilen Tu, Samantha Reeves and Mashona Washington. . . .

At age 34, Ronald Agenor is running out of chances to spark his tennis career. Currently ranked No. 103 on the ATP tour, he had a chance to break into the top 100, a position he hasn't been in more than four years, with two wins at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. He appeared to be on his way after Tuesday, when he defeated Kevin Ullyett in the first round. But Agenor was beaten swiftly and soundly by Fabrice Santoro Wednesday, 6-4, 6-4.

"Basically, he didn't give me any free points," Agenor said. Tied 4-4 in the first set, "he broke with two unforced errors by me. . . . I know that it's possible, but it's been hard on me mentally. I know I can to do it this year. I've got four or five months to make it to a ranking with two numbers, and I think I'll do it."