Tennis: Stich is slammed into touch: Washington's capital display accounts for a high-ranking German

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The Independent Online
LESS than six weeks ago, Petr Korda defeated Michael Stich in an epic final of the dollars 6m (pounds 4m) Grand Slam Cup in Munich. Yesterday the pair almost sleep-walked out of the Australian Open in the opening round of the year's first Grand Slam championship.

For many observers, this was confirmation that the Grand Slam Cup runneth over, an exercise in greed which burdens an already crowded season. Stich declared he was done with an event which has rewarded him to the tune of dollars 3.262m over the past three years. 'If I qualify for the Grand Slam Cup this year then for sure I'm not playing it,' he said. 'I made that mistake twice before. I'm not going to make it again.'

Others who witnessed the No 2 seed's defeat by the American MaliVai Washington, 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, would argue that the German's form might have been sharper if his preparation had amounted to more than one match in Qatar.

It is possible that Stich's participation in Munich was one weary step too many after his exertions in winning the ATP Tour Championship in Frankfurt, followed by an inspirational leadership of Germany's Davis Cup final triumph against Australia in Dusseldorf.

The error-strewn manner of Korda's defeat by Sweden's Thomas Enqvist, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6, also smacked of anti-climax after the Czech's mighty deeds in those Munich marathons against Stich and Pete Sampras, the world No 1, to win dollars 1.625m.

On the other hand, Enqvist, a former world junior champion, had the game and the stamina to eliminate Andre Agassi in five sets in the first round of last year's United States Open, and Washington is remembered for an upset against Ivan Lendl at New Haven in 1990, when the consummate professional was the world No 2.

Washington had lost to Stich in each of their four previous matches, notably after leading by two sets in the first round of the 1991 Australian Open. Though Stich had two set points at 5-4 in the opening set yesterday, his lack of conviction was translated through his racket.

Even when Stich won the third set, Washington saw insufficient evidence to fear a full-scale revival. The German lost his serve from 40-0 to be broken for 1-3 in the fourth set, and completed a miserable afternoon by double-faulting on match point.

'I didn't even know the scores at times,' Stich said. 'MaliVai played a good match, I just played a very terrible match. I really didn't know exactly what I was doing. It's not like he won the match. I gave it to him and he took it, unfortunately. I didn't have the feeling like you should have when you play in front of 10,000 people. I just played tennis, and did it very badly.' It was hard to believe that this was the same player who dismissed Washington, 6-3, 6-1, in the first round of the Grand Slam Cup.

The eighth-seeded Korda was similarly nonplussed by his own performance. 'I was just overpowered,' he said.

'He (Enqvist) played well, and I just couldn't move today. I was very slow, especially with my eyes. Normally I am returning much better. It was just not a great day for myself, and he really deserved it. That's all I can say.'

The results had a dramatic effect on the bottom quarter of the draw, and must have further encouraged Stefan Edberg as he saw two potential problems disappear from his half. The Swede, seeded No 4, dropped only six games in defeating Javier Sanchez.

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