A quick glance at Victor Smith and you might think it was Andre Agassi. Except if you’re Andre Agassi.
The Poolesville, Md. resident was part of a throng of fans that greeted the world’s top player as he exited the media tent on Thursday at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. Like Agassi, Smith was wearing a tennis shirt with khaki shorts and was sporting a shaved head. As he was signing autographs, someone yelled over Smith’s shoulder, ‘Hey, Andre, it’s your evil twin brother.’
Then Smith told Agassi that people say that he looks like him. Agassi just smiled and said, ”According to who?”
Recognizing Agassi has become quite an easy thing to do over the years, especially in the nation’s capital, which has become his personal playground. He has won five Legg Mason singles titles and has made 13 straight tournament appearances in Washington.
In typical Agassi fashion, the 33-year-old Las Vegas born superstar has seemed to be able to turn time on its head, playing near the top of his game this year. Heading into the Legg Mason Tournament, Agassi has won three singles titles in 2003, including the Australian Open, and is ranked No. 1 in the world again with a sparkling 35-5 record.
He’s won 58 career singles titles, and was ranked No. 1 as early as 1995, when he won both the Australian Open and the Legg Mason Classic.
In fact, winning has become so automatic for Agassi that fans were primarily sitting on their hands during Thursday’s match against Sargis Sargsian. It was only until the end of a painfully quick 54-minute drubbing that the fans really began to cheer Agassi.
Leading 5-2 in the second set, Agassi walked to the baseline in preparation to close out the match. The fans began to hoop and holler, anticipating another easy win. Sargsian, a friend of Agassi and sometimes doubles partner, could do nothing to stop the inevitable.
Down 30-15, he checked up on backhand return and barely got it to the net on three bounces. Agassi then drilled a picture-perfect serve in the right corner and all Sargsian could do was get a racket on it. The ball bounced weakly into the doubles alley and the match was over.
After the obligatory handshake of the head umpire, Agassi came out to the middle of the court and blew kisses to an adoring audience. It’s if he’s Elvis Presley and he still hasn’t left the building.
”I certainly love the fans and the atmosphere here and I love coming to the city,” said Agassi at the post-match press conference. ”And it [this court surface] lends itself to my style of play.”
Which has been booming baseline shots, phenomenal returns of serve and unbelievable match stamina for the better part of 14 years. When Sargsian came out to center court before the match, he was greeted with polite applause while the stereo played ”Hit Me With Your Best Shot” by 1980s rocker Pat Benatar. And that’s exactly what Agassi did to him. Repeatedly.
But at the press conference, Agassi sounded more like a public relations firm for Sargsian than someone that took him out to the woodshed. He talked about how well the Armenian moved on the court and the balance that he showed. When someone told Agassi how one-sided the matches have been between them ? he’s won all six ? he said on paper they may be one-sided, but you can’t take anything for granted.
I, for one, hope I never take Agassi for granted. He’s won a tournament I never thought he’d win ? Wimbledon ? and he’s a perfect example of someone that combines ridiculous talent with a burning desire to win. And that makes him great. And recognizable.
Kipp Hanley is a staff writer for the Potomac News & Manassas Journal Messenger. Reach him at (703) 878-8047 or e-mail him at [email protected]