Kournikova withdraws from Wimbledon

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The Independent Online

Anna Kournikova today became the latest women's withdrawal from Wimbledon, citing a stress fracture of the foot which has kept her out of action since the end of February.

The 20–year–old Russian missed the entire clay court season and pulled out of this week's grass court tournament at Eastbourne.

Kournikova, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 1997 at age 16, has not played since losing to Amelie Mauresmo in the quarterfinals of the Gaz de France in February.

Other big names missing from the women's draw are Monica Seles, who withdrew Monday because of a recurring foot injury, and former French Open champion Mary Pierce, out with a back problem.

Wimbledon begins next Monday.

Meanwhile, a week before Wimbledon, Lindsay Davenport is playing her first tournament for almost three months since retiring with a bruised right knee bone injury in Miami in March.

The former Wimbledon champion, who was injured during her quarter–final match with Elena Dementieva in Miami, is top seed at the grass court championships at Eastbourne this week after being forced to miss the entire clay court season.

In her first grass court tournament since losing to Venus Williams in last year's Wimbledon final, she is seeded to meet French veteran Nathalie Tauziat in Saturday's final.

"It feels pretty good. I'm ready to go," Davenport said after practice. The American is expected to play her first match here on Wednesday against either Daja Bedanova of the Czech Republic or Anne–Gaelle Sidot of France after receiving a first round bye.

Tauziat, 33, intends to retire at the end of this year. But the grass court expertise that took her to the 1998 Wimbledon final was still in evidence on Monday when she overcame Miriam Oremans of the Netherlands 6–3, 7–5 in the rain–delayed Birmingham final.

The field at the dlrs 565,000 Eastbourne event has been considerably weakened by the withdrawal of Anna Kournikova, who once proved her grass court pedigree by beating Steffi Graf on the courts of Devonshire Park. The stylish Amelie Mauresmo of France and Barbara Schett of Austria were also late withdrawals from the final warm–up event before Wimbledon gets underway next Monday.

South Africa's Amanda Coetzer is seeded third, with Magdalena Maleeva of Bulgaria seeded fourth. Although Coetzer has enjoyed some success on grass and should justify her seeding, it is not a surface favoured by Maleeva who could struggle in her opening match, when she could face big–hitting American Amy Frazier in the second round.

While the top four seeds receive first round byes, fifth seed Sandrine Testud of France will have to play Luxembourg's Anne Kremer, who beat Monica Seles at Eastbourne two years ago. Italy's Sylvia Farina Elia, seeded six, will take on American Lilia Osterloh, while both seventh seeded American Meghann Shaughnessy and eighth seed Conchita Martinez of Spain will play qualifiers.