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Kuerten upset early by No. 53

Agassi, Serena Williams out of Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Gustavo Kuerten was upset in the first round Monday, a few hours after Andre Agassi and Serena Williams withdrew before their matches during a hectic opening day at the Australian Open.

Kuerten, the three-time French Open champion and former No. 1, lacked his usual zip and was treated for hip pain. He wasted a two-set lead to Julien Boutter of France and lost 3-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to a player ranked No. 53.

Kuerten left the Melbourne Park complex to get a medical opinion, but he returned not knowing exactly what is wrong or what to do.

"It's already been eight months that I've been feeling this," the second-seeded Brazilian said. "I prepared well, but I was still not able to compete on hard courts."

Kuerten has never advanced past the second round of the Australian Open.

"After the third set, I couldn't move," he said. "I feel like I couldn't play my game. There's a lot of pain and it's no pleasure for me to play like that."

After falling behind in the first two sets, Boutter took advantage of the Brazilian's sluggishness, sending 91 winners by Kuerten to compensate for 50 unforced errors.

The tournament was jolted on the opening morning by the withdrawals of No. 3 Agassi and No. 5 Serena Williams — both injured during tuneup events — and delayed for more than an hour by rain.

Williams injured her ankle in Sydney last week and withdrew just after first-round matches started on outside courts. That ensured there will be no repeat of the all-sister final at the U.S. Open in which Serena lost to Venus Williams.

It also gave former No. 1 Martina Hingis one fewer hurdle in her path to a sixth consecutive Australian Open final.

Venus, seeded second and the two-time U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion, beat qualifier Ansley Cargill 6-2, 6-2, and Hingis downed Virginie Razzano of France by the same score in the first night match.

Hingis could have met Serena in the quarterfinals, Venus in the semifinals and defending champion Jennifer Capriati in the final.

Hingis defeated Serena and Venus Williams last year before losing to Capriati in the championship match. But Venus Williams said she was not as prepared last year as she would have liked.

"Right now, I think I have a lot more experience on my side, and I have confidence," she said. "So that's important going into a championship like this."

Hingis is coming back from a three-month layoff for an ankle injury. She retained her title in Sydney last week, her first tournament victory in 11 months.

Hingis said she could empathize with Serena Williams, having had ankle surgery herself. But she didn't want to dwell on how Serena's absence might help her.

"I love every time I walk out there," on center court, said Hingis, who won three Australian titles from 1997-99. "First round is always tough — I'm not worried about the quarterfinals yet. I'll take it round by round."

Top-seeded Capriati starts her defense Tuesday against Silvija Talaja of Croatia.

With the second- and third-seeded men already out midway through the first round, No. 1 Hewitt opens Tuesday against Alberto Martin of Spain.

Hewitt is the first homegrown player to be seeded first at this tournament since 1976. He is aiming to be the first Aussie to win at Melbourne since Mark Edmondson that same year.

Pete Sampras, owner of 13 Grand Slam titles, faces Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the first round.

Agassi injured his right wrist in an exhibition loss Saturday to Sampras. After meeting with the tournament director and doctor, he advised organizers late Sunday he was pulling out.

The 31-year-old Agassi planned to return to the United States on Monday. He was trying to become the first man to win three consecutive Australian Open titles since Roy Emerson, who won five in a row from 1963-67.