Andre Agassi said that the first time he heard of Carl-Uwe Steeb was Tuesday, when the West German tennis player beat him in straight sets in the opening round of the International Players Championships.
“I had no idea whether he was left-handed or right-handed or anything,” Agassi said, after losing 6-4, 7-5, 6-0. “I didn’t know his name.”
Steeb responded: “Maybe he knows it now.”
Agassi, seeded third, was the first of the top eight seeded players to lose in the two-week, $2.1-million tournament. Sixth-seeded Tim Mayotte lost later Tuesday to Kelly Evernden of Australia, the world’s 84th-ranked player.
Winners included top-seeded players Ivan Lendl and Gabriela Sabatini. Among the men, No. 2 Mats Wilander, No. 4 Jimmy Connors, No. 5 Jakob Hlasek and No. 8 Miloslav Mecir also won. Among the women, No. 2 Chris Evert, No. 3 Helena Sukova and No. 4 Pam Shriver advanced, and No. 7 Barbara Potter withdrew because of back spasms.
Although Steeb is ranked only 96th in the world, he has been a fairly high-profile player of late. He is best known for beating Wilander in the last year’s Davis Cup finals, when West Germany upset Sweden in a highly publicized grand finale. Agassi is a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team that will probably play West Germany in the semifinals in July if it gets past France in San Diego April 7-9.
Against Agassi, the left-handed Steeb used a blistering forehand and big serve. Agassi caved in at the end, losing the final eight games.
“He started to hit the ball too hard and stayed very close to the baseline,” said Steeb, 21. “After he realized I can keep up with him, he started trying to hit winners from there, and that makes him a little bit shaky.”
Agassi, who lost eight of his 14 service games, said his heart was not in the tournament.
“For the past three months, I’ve been trying to pull out, because I wanted a little more time off to get in tune for Davis Cup,” he said. “I did feel a little flat. In the future, I’m going to have to dig a little deeper to pull matches like this out.”
Lendl improved his record this year on hard courts to 13-0 by beating Todd Woodbridge of Australia, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
Wilander overcame a slow start to beat David Pate of Las Vegas, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6. Connors defeated Richard Matuszewski of Hopewell Junction, N.J., 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. Hlasek of Switzerland outlasted Javier Sanchez of Spain, 2-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Mecir, who won Sunday’s Champions Cup at Indian Wells swept Claudio Pistolesi of Italy, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. Mayotte lost to Evernden, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. No. 12 Yannick Noah of France beat Roger Smith of the Bahamas, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.
Sabatini beat Elly Hakami of Tiburon, Calif., 6-0, 6-3. Evert defeated Sabrina Goles of Yugoslavia, 6-3, 6-4. Sukova routed Sophie Amiach of France, 6-1, 6-1. Shriver survived a match point to beat Etsuko Inoue of Japan, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.