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Hip injury won't force withdrawal from Slam event

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Andre Agassi told ESPN on Friday in Melbourne he will not be forced to join
the growing list of high-profile absentees from the Australian Open, despite injuring his hip in an exhibition tournament.

The statement upgrades his status after he pulled out of the Kooyong Classic on Thursday.

"It's a mighty big spectrum of possibilities right now," said
the four-time Australian Open champion on Thursday, who was trailing Andy
Roddick 6-5 in his match when he retired.

After Agassi made the decision to play in the Australian Open, he persuaded Kooyong Classic officials to let him play an exhibition match against Tim Henman in a final tuneup on Saturday.

Agassi said he felt tightness in the muscle at the front of his
right hip and would have an MRI to determine the damage.

"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 said. "That wasn't comfortable out
there at all, what I was feeling. I have to wait and see what I'm
dealing with -- it's a pretty scary feeling out there when something
doesn't feel right and is getting worse.

"It's very disappointing and I'll have to do my best to deal
with it."

While Agassi's attendance at the Australian Open is less in doubt, former Wimbledon and U.S. Open finalist Mark Philippoussis
pulled out of it because of an adductor muscle problem that forced
him out of the recent Hopman Cup.

The Open women's draw has also been depleted by injuries.
Defending champion Justine Henin-Hardenne pulled out last week
because of a knee problem and her fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters was
ruled out with persistent wrist pain. Jennifer Capriati, a two-time
winner, withdrew Wednesday because of a recurring right shoulder
injury.

Top-seeded Lindsay Davenport had to forfeit her quarterfinal
match against Australia's Samantha Stosur in the Sydney
International on Thursday due to bronchitis, 10 days after she
withdrew from the Hopman Cup to give her injured knee extra time to
heal.

On Wednesday, Agassi, 34, said he felt he was in top
physical condition for the Open and was hoping "to have some
magical things happen."

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

Despite all the conditioning, Agassi said he first felt pain in
his hip midway through the first set, and briefly approached the
umpire's chair in the 10th game.

"It got to a point where it wasn't doing anybody any good for
me to stay out there. It was a difficult decision, but a clear
one," Agassi said. "I have been through it before -- enough to
know that it was only getting worse."

Agassi said it was not a recurrence of the hip injury 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.