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Agassi limped through loss in French Open

LONDON -- Andre Agassi withdrew from Wimbledon because of an injury for the second straight year Tuesday, leaving fans to wonder whether they'll ever see him play again at the All England Club.

The 1992 Wimbledon champion and 1999 runner-up sent a fax to the
grass-court Grand Slam tournament saying he was out.

An exact injury wasn't announced by organizers, and Agassi's agent didn't immediately return phone messages. But Agassi was
hobbled by an inflamed nerve in his back during his 7-5, 4-6, 6-7
(6), 6-1, 6-0 loss to qualifier Jarkko Nieminen in the first round
of the French Open last month.

"It was getting worse by the minute," the 35-year-old Agassi
said after that loss in Paris. "I knew it wasn't going to be
pretty after that. But I didn't want to walk off. I just didn't
want to do it. And there's nothing the trainer could do."

He endured discomfort in his back for months and considered
quitting against Nieminen even when leading two sets to one.

But the eight-time major champion left Roland Garros hopeful
about Wimbledon, believing a cortisone injection would make the
pain go away. A year ago, Agassi also lost his first match at
Roland Garros and shortly thereafter pulled out of Wimbledon,
citing a bad hip. But he also acknowledged he could be close to
retiring.

One of the most popular and successful players in his sport's
history, Agassi set an Open-era record by playing in his 58th Grand
Slam tournament at the French Open.

He's one of just five men to have completed a career Grand Slam,
and his most recent major title came at the Australian Open in
2003. Shortly after that, he became the oldest man to be No. 1
since the ATP Tour began computer rankings in the 1970s.

But, as might be expected even from someone who trains as hard
as Agassi, he's been slipping lately. The American has won just one
tournament in the past 25 months, and he's currently No. 6 in the
rankings.

Grand Slam tournaments and their particular demands of
best-of-five-set matches and larger fields long have proved to be
more difficult for older players. Since 1968, only two men won Slam
titles after turning 34: Andres Gimeno and Ken Rosewall.

Also Tuesday, 14th-ranked Elena Bovina of Russia withdrew from
Wimbledon with a shoulder injury. The seedings are scheduled to be
released Wednesday, with the draw Thursday.

Years ago, Agassi mocked Wimbledon's grass and its all-white
dress code, preferring to play golf back home in Las Vegas while
others played tennis in England.

He entered the tournament just once in his first five years as a
pro, losing in the first round in 1987. But he returned in 1991,
making the quarterfinals, and the next year beat Goran Ivanisevic
in the final for his first Slam title.

If Agassi doesn't return to Wimbledon, his final match there
will have been his fourth-round loss in 2003 to Mark Philippoussis,
who hit 46 aces in five sets to tie a tournament record.

Asked that day, as he's been so many times of late, about his
plans for the future, Agassi responded: "Why wouldn't I be back?
I'm still a tennis player. This is the place to be."