Tennis: Graf to miss Brighton

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THERE was disappointment at both ends of the scale yesterday for the organisers of next week's women's international tournament at Brighton, writes John Roberts.

Steffi Graf's back injury has not recovered in time for the world No 1 to participate and Martina Hingis, the 14-year-old who made her WTA Tour debut in Zurich last week, has taken a wild card for an event in Essen instead.

George Hendon, the Brighton tournament director, hopes Conchita Martinez, the Wimbledon champion, or Gabriela Sabatini can be persuaded to add appeal to the pounds 253,000 championships.

Jana Novotna, the world No 4 and runner-up to Graf at Wimbledon last year, currently is the highest ranked player in the draw, as she was last year after the German withdrew to have foot surgery. Novotna returns as the defending champion, and Mary Joe Fernandez, Magdalena Maleeva and Anke Huber, last year's beaten finalist, are the other top-20 competitors in a field of 32.

Graf, a six-times winner at Brighton, has not played since the recurrent back problem flared during her match against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the final of the United States Open a month ago. Her agent, Phil de Picciotto, said in a letter to Hendon: 'She is at least as frustrated as you are with the situation, but unfortunately time is the only remedy.'