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WIMBLEDON OPENS WITH TABS TAKING THEIR EARLY SHOTS

So it is back to the village of Wimbledon, Borough of Merton, south of the Thames and east of Eden, where summer has arrived in shades of gray, Monica Seles isn't going to arrive at all, and there is as much talk about Andre Agassi's navel as Boris Becker's serve.

It was chaos in print. News that Seles, No. 1 seed in women's singles, had withdrawn had the British press confused and disheartened.Monica wins the first two legs of the Grand Slam, the Australian and French Opens, and then suddenly doesn't have a leg to stand on, or more properly a knee.

"An injury caused by a minor accident," was the indirect way her agents explained it. Did she get hit by a runaway hippo?

Wimbledon got hit with a major blow. That's for sure. Never, since seedings were instituted in 1924, has the No. 1 player in either the men's or women's categories dropped out.

But there's a first for everything, and now, with Seles a no show, Steffi Graf, the 1988 and '89 champion, has been elevated to first from second.

The past week Agassi has been elevated to a position of infamy as he ends a four-year absence and we find out if he has a touch of grass.

After losing in the first round at Wimbledon as a 17-year-old, Agassi has not condescended to compete here because, depending on what you believe, he could not bear to be made to wear white tennis clothing; he was a shy young man who easily grew homesick; or he knew that if he fought the lawn, the lawn would win.

Guardian columnist Matthew Engel, in a tale headlined, "Overweaning, overdue and over here," pointed out Agassi's shirt is designed to be longer in the back so every time he plays a shot the front flies up, revealing a hairy lower chest and belly button.

The tabloids, the demon barbers of Fleet Street, will be nailing Agassi, as well as defending women's champion Martina Navratilova, who switched companions from Judy Nelson, the blond, to Cindy Nelson, the skier, and is being sued by Judy.

Another ready made tale for the tabs is the never-ending saga of Steffi Graf's father, Peter. Last year he survived a paternity suit brought on by a "Playboy" model.

Two weeks ago, Peter had a run-in with a rich guy from Florida who used to be Steffi's groupie but changed over to Seles.

And let us not forget John McEnroe, who, even if he can no longer play quality tennis, can get himself into trouble almost without trying. Since McEnroe was eliminated in the first round in 1990, he's punched out a United Airlines ticket agent at San Francisco Airport and chewed out Agassi for being unpatriotic.

Who will win Wimbledon? It's easier to say who won't win Wimbledon.

We start with Seles, since it's hard to get past the first round when you withdraw. Then add Jennifer Capriati. Youth may be served, but youth needs a serve.

Ivan Lendl? His wife is due, but Ivan isn't.

The women will come down to Steffi, Gabriela Sabatini and Martina, who Saturday won Eastbourne, the Wimbledon prelude.

The men? Edberg and Becker have played in three straight finals. And they'll make it four. And make us weep.

Becker plays tennis like Rickey Henderson plays baseball, diving and leaping and picking up more dirt than the National Enquirer. But Edberg is good and boring.