Monday, Nov. 17, 1997 | 12:47 p.m.
When Andre Agassi entered the Luxor Las Vegas/USTA Men's Challenger, he had to be a favorite.
Agassi was neither the highest seeded nor highest ranked in the minor-league tennis tournament, but these facts remained: He is a former No. 1 in the world; he has won multiple Grand Slam events and several million dollars; he was playing on his home turf.
Yet the 27-year-old Las Vegan lost in the final to someone who boasted none of the above.
Unranked and unseeded Christian Vinck rallied from a 4-1 second-set deficit to beat Agassi 6-2, 7-5 in Sunday's final at UNLV's Fertitta Tennis Complex.
The left-handed German overpowered Agassi to claim the top prize of $7,200. Agassi, attempting to play his way back to world-class form, grabbed a check worth $4,240.
"Today I was little flat," said Agassi, ranked No. 141 in the world and seeded No. 5 in the tourney. "I thought I had time to work into the match, but he played more aggressive than I anticipated, and I forced myself behind the eight ball."
Vinck, 21, realized his victory was not over the Agassi of old. But he still called it the biggest of his career.
"I think he's not in top shape like when he was No. 1," Vinck said. "He made a lot of easy mistakes he wouldn't have made two years ago. But I was happy to beat him. If he becomes good in the future, I can say, 'I beat him in November.'"
As the shadows crept across Court 1, Agassi struggled to find his groove. His third and fifth serves of the first set were broken, and he had trouble with Vinck's tricky serve.
Vinck recorded five aces in the first set, including one to close it out.
"A lot of people had problems with my serve all week," Vinck said. "I'm not serving hard, but I'm a lefty with a good slice."
Agassi seemed to take command in the second set. He broke Vinck's second serve to stake a three-game lead, scoring 10 straight points along the way.
But Vinck broke two of Agassi's next three serves. Vinck took the second set just as he did the first: with an ace.
"I never felt I was really in control of the match," Agassi said. "My legs weren't really moving. I was uncomfortable from start to finish."
Added Vinck: "I wasn't really watching his footwork. I was just happy when he made a mistake or was too slow."
Despite the loss and the $1,000 fine incurred Friday for shouting an expletive at an official, Agassi claimed playing in the tournament was, overall, a positive experience.
"It's a step in the right direction, to say the least," Agassi said. "That's how I gotta look at it. It's frustrating and discouraging (to lose the championship), but it's something I have to shake off.
"Just getting matches in is great. After getting five matches in (during this tournament), now I'll have a much easier time getting into the next tournament."
Agassi said he will compete in the ATP Challenger in Burbank, Calif., this week.
"I gotta establish myself out here," Agassi said. "Then I'll start caring about the bigger events."
In Sunday's precursor, David DiLucia and Mike Sell beat Paul Goldsteain and Jim Thomas 6-4, 6-4 for the doubles title.