Agassi overcomes injury, planning to a pre-Australian Open match

Thursday, January 13th 2005, 6:41 pm
By: News On 6

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ Andre Agassi's hip injury appears to be less serious than originally thought _ he's planning to play an exhibition match Saturday.

When Agassi pulled out of his Kooyong Classic match Thursday against Andy Roddick with muscle tightness in his right hip, there were concerns he might miss the Australian Open, which begins Monday.

But on Friday, Agassi had a 15-minute hitting session behind closed doors at Rod Laver Arena and then asked Kooyong organizers if he could play an exhibition match against Tim Henman on the weekend. Agassi's coach, Darren Cahill, told Kooyong officials that Agassi wanted to play again before the Open.

Cahill didn't reveal the results of MRI scans that Agassi had been reported to be undergoing on Friday.

The Agassi-Henman match was scheduled to follow the Kooyong Classic final between top-ranked Roger Federer and Roddick.

After retiring when he was down 6-5 in the first set against Roddick, Agassi said there was ``a mighty big spectrum of possibilities right now'' regarding his prospects for the Australian Open.

He said he'd felt tightness in the muscle at the front of his right hip.

``The good news is that it didn't just tear, it was tightening up and that can be your body protecting itself, which is hopefully more of the issue,'' Agassi told a news conference.

Injuries have hit the Australian Open draw.

Former U.S. Open and Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis pulled out with an adductor muscle problem that forced him out of the recent Hopman Cup.

On the women's side, defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne pulled out last week because of a knee problem and her Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters was ruled out with a persistent wrist complaint. Jennifer Capriati, a two-time winner, withdrew because of a recurring right shoulder injury.

Complaining of bronchitis, top-ranked Lindsay Davenport was one of five players who retired at the Sydney International on Thursday. Sixth-seeded Elena Dementieva joined them Friday when she withdrew from her scheduled semifinal because of heat illness.

Earlier in the week, Agassi, 34, said he felt in peak physical condition for the Open.

He said he'd trimmed down to about 74 kilograms (163 pounds) from about 80 kilograms (176 pounds) after concentrating on fitness instead of tennis technique in the offseason.

Agassi said his latest injury was not a recurrence of the hip complaint that forced him to miss Wimbledon last year, saying it was a joint rather than a muscle injury.

Agassi won at Kooyong in 2000, 2001 and 2003, and each of those years went on to win the Australian Open. An injury at the annual exhibition event cost him a chance at three consecutive Australian titles in 2002, when he injured his wrist playing Pete Sampras in the Kooyong final.

That year, he withdrew on the opening day at Melbourne Park.