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Agassi Tribute to Wilander Is Short : Tennis: No. 2 player in world defeats former No. 1 in 58 minutes. Courier upset by Spain’s Costa at Indian Wells.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Two eras of tennis collided with a muffled thud Wednesday, as Andre Agassi and Mats Wilander met at opposite ends of their notable careers. Agassi, No. 2 with a bullet, eliminated former No. 1 Wilander, 6-0, 6-2, in the second round of the $1.8-million Newsweek Champions Cup.

The players’ encounter was fleeting, lasting only 58 minutes, but it left a lingering sentimental memory. The presence of Wilander--who won his first Grand Slam tournament 13 years ago--was evocative of a time when elegance and touch ruled tennis and before concussive serves abbreviated the game.

Fleeting too was the stay of ninth-seeded Jim Courier, who won’t be lingering here after having been upset by No. 34 Carlos Costa of Spain, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.

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It’s difficult to see Wilander struggle and consider that, still only 30, he’s in his 15th year on the tour. He got into the tournament at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort as a wild card and had only squeaked into the second round.

By comparison, Agassi entered the tournament with a red carpet under his sneakered feet and brought with him a game at its apex. He is the flag bearer of the new power that permeates tennis and Wilander was overwhelmed by the sheer force of it.

In Wednesday’s match, Agassi’s ground strokes were so powerful that Wilander often thrust his racket at the ball simply to block the shot, rather than return it. Agassi’s serve had similar velocity. When he got his first serve in, he won 81% of the points. Wilander, when he managed to get a racket on Agassi’s serve, was often reduced to prolonged racket string adjustment after the point.

It was a dominant performance, reminiscent of Wilander’s former mastery. In 1988 the Swede was ranked No. 1 and won the Australian, French and U.S. Opens. Soon after that, his interest in tennis waned and music, golf, family and life itself began to draw him away

Wilander, who lives in Greenwich, Conn. with his wife and two young children, left the tour in 1990 and didn’t play full time again until last year. His ranking dropped to No. 326 in 1993 but he raised it 100 spots last year. He’s currently ranked an unthreatening No. 138.

Agassi’s dismantling was surgical, quick and without remorse. What better tribute to offer a great champion than to be respectful of the skill he still possesses?

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“There are two sides to it,” Agassi said. “He was a great player and you are beating him handily, and there is that side to it. But the other side to it is that he is a great player and he knows how to win. And so don’t give him a chance. There is also the respect side to it too. Mats is fine. He doesn’t worry about being embarrassed out there.”

Courier’s undoing was the net play of the Spaniard, whose volleys left the world’s No. 11 player searching for a response. It was Courier’s sixth match in the last seven days.

“More than anything right now, I just need some rest,” Courier said. “I think that is going to do me more good than anything else.”

Tennis Notes

In other second-round matches, third-seeded Boris Becker defeated Jared Palmer, 6-4, 6-4; fourth-seeded Michael Chang defeated Guy Forget, 6-3, 6-2; fifth-seeded Alberto Berasategui defeated Fabrice Santoro, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4; sixth-seeded Michael Stich defeated Richey Reneberg, 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3; seventh-seeded Wayne Ferreira defeated Francisco Clavet, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4; and eighth-seeded Todd Martin defeated Horst Skoff, 6-2, 6-2.

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