After playing with 17 different doubles partners last year, David Adams finally found the right one. He knew it. Even if the results said otherwise, he knew it.

Adams and partner No. 18, John-Laffnie de Jager, lost in the first round five of the first six times they played last year, but the two South Africans stuck together and have cruised to the No. 6 ranking. They looked every bit like a top-10 team in a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 quarterfinal win over Mike Hill and Scott Humphries yesterday at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.

Hill and Humphries broke Adams's serve to open the match and hit some dazzling shots early. But Adams and de Jager, seeded No. 2, were unfazed. They stayed in the set, and once they won the tiebreaker and went up a break early in the second set, they knew it was just a matter of time. "They were flashy, so they made some great shots and got ahead of us," de Jager said.

A year ago, when de Jager and Adams were playing with different partners, facing such opponents might have thrown them off track. This time, they ignored it. They won the first three games of the second set and did not surrender a service break.

"That's something we try to do: stick to our game," Adams said. "We know if we play well, we'll do well. That's been good enough all year."

It's a lot easier to stick to your game when you stick with one partner, something Adams did not do the past three years. After spending the early part of this decade teamed with Andrei Olhovskiy, Adams injured his shoulder and Olhovskiy started playing with fellow Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Adams played with an ATP Tour-high 16 partners in 1996, made three finals with three different partners in 1997 and then played with 18 last year. This year, he has played with one. As a bonus, because both are South African, they can team up for Davis Cup ties. And as they approach the U.S. Open, where both have played well, Adams and de Jager are peaking. "When you have a successful first year, you are bound to improve," Adams said.

By the Numbers

Through Thursday, attendance at this Legg Mason was 35,376, an average of 5,896 spectators per day. Last year, the first six days of the tournament drew 35,650, or 5,942 per day, but that included an extra Wednesday session added because of rain. That session drew 2,517, increasing the total.

Tournament director Ivan Blumberg said that ticket sales this year, including advance sales for the weekend, "have already exceeded last year's total. We're going to exceed last year by 20 percent."

The chief reason for the attendance bump is the move from July to August, which enabled the tournament to draw a stronger field, Blumberg said. The tournament will be held in August at least for the next two years.