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Agassi, Serena out at Aussie

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Defending champion Andre Agassi and Serena Williams withdrew from the Australian Open with injuries Monday, leaving the year's first Grand Slam tournament without two marquee players.

A worrisome right wrist injury ended Agassi's bid for a third straight Australian Open title.

Williams decided Monday to pull out after turning her ankle Friday night while chasing a drop shot in a tournament in Sydney, Australian Open organizers said. The fifth-seeded Williams had said earlier the injury wouldn't stop her.

The top-seeded woman, No. 1 Lindsay Davenport, already was sidelined, after right knee surgery Friday.

Rain halted play on the outdoor courts after only a few first-round matches were completed. No. 15-seeded Amanda Coetzer was among the early winners, beating Miriam Oremans 6-1, 6-1.

The roofs on the two main show courts were being closed to allow resumption of matches there.

Williams, the 1999 U.S. Open champion and runner-up to older sister Venus there last year, was scheduled to play Monday against 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez.

Martinez now will play Russian Lina Krasnoroutskaya, the 33rd-ranking woman in the field before Williams dropped out. Pavlina Nola of New Zealand, who had lost in qualifying, took Krasnoroutskaya's original place in the draw.

Agassi was scheduled to start here Tuesday.

"I'm worried about the state of it and what it might mean" for his career, the 31-year-old Agassi said an hour before the tournament began.

"The pain was bad and fairly familiar," he said, adding that trying to play through pain led to surgery on the wrist in 1993. He planned to return immediately to the United States for assessment and treatment.

Agassi said he hurt the wrist in the first set of a 7-6 (6), 6-7 (6), 6-3 loss to Pete Sampras on Saturday in the final of the Kooyong Classic, an exhibition warmup for the open.

But after the match and again on Sunday, he talked of being in excellent shape and confident for his title defense.

Sunday night, he said, he had knots in his stomach when he called Open director Paul McNamee to arrange a session with the tournament doctor.

"It was a decision I labored over," said Agassi, who was seeded third. "It's very rare in your career when you wouldn't want to be the defending champion but this is one of them."

His replacement in the draw, 20-year-old Irakli Labadze of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, beat Agassi in the first round of a tournament in Shanghai last September, saving a set point in each set. Labadze, ranked No. 104, failed to qualify here but now will be playing in his first Grand Slam tournament, facing qualifier Byron Black of Zimbabwe on Tuesday.