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Agassi might miss Aussie Open with injured ankle

CARSON, Calif. -- Andre Agassi's plans to play next month's
Australian Open are in jeopardy because of a severe left ankle
sprain that hasn't healed.

"Australia has now become a concern, no question about it.
Until this is better, I can't make any sure statements," he said
Wednesday. "Right now, I'm worried about my training. I have hope
that the next week or two will be big, big gains."

Agassi sprained his ankle Oct. 12 while playing racquetball with
a friend in Las Vegas.

"I couldn't walk for two weeks," he said.

He aggravated the injury during the season-ending Tennis Masters
Cup last month in Shanghai, where he was upset in the first round.

"It's arguably worse now than it was two weeks ago, so I set
myself back going to Shanghai," he said. "I have a bone bruise
that, literally, is still a world of concern."

Agassi said he sustained a third-degree sprain, which tore three
tendons in his ankle, and caused the bone bruise. A knot was
visible on his ankle.

Doctors told Agassi his recovery would take six-to-eight weeks
with full rest and rehabilitation. But he interfered with the
process by playing Shanghai and then playing singles and mixed
doubles with wife Steffi Graf at a charity exhibition in Virginia.

"After my experience in Shanghai, I can confidently say I'll
never get on the court again unless I'm 100 percent ready," he
said. "I was just absolutely resentful that I made the decision to
go on there less than my best. I was real upset."

So was an event organizer, who blasted Agassi for his
withdrawal. The 35-year-old American was one of five top players
who withdrew because of injury or illness.

Wang Liqun, deputy director of the organizing committee in
Shanghai, accused Agassi of announcing his withdrawal without
notifying anyone.

"I certainly didn't appreciate how irresponsible (Wang) was,"
Agassi said. "It was very discouraging for me. I'm frustrated by
the whole thing."

Asked why he ventured to Shanghai instead of staying home like
injured Andy Roddick, Agassi said, "I hadn't played since the
[U.S.] Open and I didn't want to go all the way to Australia
without playing. There was also pressure from the tournament as
well as the ATP. Everybody wanted me to play and I wanted to play,
I just shouldn't have."

Agassi confirmed that he will skip next year's clay court season
because of his fragile back. A herniated disc led to his
first-round loss in the French Open and his absence from Wimbledon
for a second straight year.

"I know not playing the clay at this stage of my career beats
the alternative, which is putting myself through it and
jeopardizing more realistic goals," he said.

Agassi said he hasn't ruled out playing Davis Cup next year. The
United States hosts Romania in a first-round match in La Jolla,
Calif., in February.

He was in Carson to launch a tennis and education program for
at-risk youth called Agassi's Safe Passage All-Stars. It will
provide promising junior players ages 8 to 15 with tutoring and
coaching so they can compete for college scholarships.

"This isn't a program that says we're going to make you a
tennis professional," Agassi said. "This is a program that's
going to use tennis as a vehicle to introduce you to your full
potential in academics."

Agassi finished the year ranked No. 7 in the world. He won his
only title in Los Angeles and had a 38-12 match record. He lost to
Roger Federer in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and the
U.S. Open final.