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Agassi receives 8th seed

Andre Agassi wasn't considered a real contender at Wimbledon last season. A year later, after winning the tournament, he still is not.

At least not in the eyes of Wimbledon officials, who seeded him eighth, making him the lowest seeded men's defending champion in Wimbledon history.

Actually, Agassi, who has slumped this year while nursing a wrist injury, did well to be positioned eighth. While most tournaments follow the current rankings in their seedings, Wimbledon establishes its own pecking order and pushed Agassi five places above his current ranking of 13th. That means Agassi won't face a top eight player before the quarterfinals.

"It was a difficult decision bearing in mind he has not played much in the last couple of months because of injury," Wimbledon referee Alan Mills said. "But he is the defending champion and he proved he can play on grass."

The seeding committee also used its own discretion in making third-ranked Stefan Edberg the No. 2 seed behind top-ranked Pete Sampras, and dropping Jim Courier, the second-ranked pro from Dade City, to No. 3 _ mainly because he hasn't done as well on grass as Edberg, a two-time Wimbledon champ.

Since seedings were introduced at Wimbledon in 1927, no men's champion who has returned to defend his title had been seeded lower than No. 6. The previous lowest-seeded defending champion was Jan Kodes, who was No. 6 the year after he won the boycott-hit tournament of 1973.

But Agassi hasn't played nearly as well as he did in surprising almost everyone by winning Wimbledon last year, becoming the first baseliner to win the tournament since Bjorn Borg in the late 1970s and early '80s.

Injuries have contributed to his slide. Tendinitis in his right wrist has sidelined him since April 9. He skipped the French Open last month, and his participation in this year's Wimbledon is expected but not certain. The Las Vegas pro is playing a Wimbledon warmup tournament this week. His first-round match is scheduled for today.

Wimbledon officials stuck closely to the women's rankings, naming top-ranked and defending champion Steffi Graf as the top seed. Graf, who has a foot injury, began practicing for Wimbledon last weekend and is expected to defend her title, her agent said.

The one exception Wimbledon officials made in the women's seedings involved Martina Navratilova. Despite being ranked fourth, the nine-time champ was selected as the No. 2 seed ahead of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who's ranked third. Second-ranked Monica Seles is skipping Wimbledon.

That decision by tournament officials _ which Navratilova apparently had been pushing for _ means she can't face Graf until the finals.

"I'm thrilled," said Navratilova, 36. "I don't think I really influenced the decision, but it makes sense for me to be upgraded. There are only two former champions in the tournament and it's right they should be in opposite halves of the draw."

"Her past record on grass speaks for itself," Mills said. "Her worst performance here over the years has been losing in the quarterfinals (to Jennifer Capriati in 1991)."

The rest of the women seedings followed the rankings.

Sergi Bruguera, who jumped to No. 5 after winning the French Open earlier this month, is skipping Wimbledon because he dislikes grass.

The draw will be held today. The tournament starts Monday.

William Hill bookmakers installed Edberg, Sampras and sixth-seeded Michael Stich as favorites at 9-2. Ladbrokes bookmakers rated Edberg and Stich, the 1991 champion, at 9-2, followed by Sampras and three-time champion Boris Becker at 5-1.

Both bookmakers listed Graf as the women's favorite at 4-7.

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

The seedings for Wimbledon, which begins June 21 (world rankings in parentheses):

MEN

1. Pete Sampras (1)

2. Stefan Edberg (3)

3. Jim Courier (2)

4. Boris Becker (4)

5. Goran Ivanisevic (6)

6. Michael Stich (8)

7. Ivan Lendl (7)

8. Andre Agassi (13)

9. Richard Krajicek (12)

10. Andrei Medvedev (9)

11. Petr Korda (10)

12. Michael Chang (11)

13. Wayne Ferreira (16)

14. MaliVai Washington (17)

15. Karel Novacek (14)

16. Thomas Muster (15)

WOMEN

1. Steffi Graf (1)

2. Martina Navratilova (4)

3. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (3)

4. Gabriela Sabatini (5)

5. Mary Joe Fernandez (6)

6. Conchita Martinez (7)

7. Jennifer Capriati (8)

8. Jana Novotna (9)

9. Anke Huber (10)

10. Magdalena Maleeva (11)

11. M. Maleeva-Fragniere (12)

12. Katerina Maleeva (13)

13. Mary Pierce (14)

14. Amanda Coetzer (15)

15. Helena Sukova (16)

16. Nathalie Tauziat (17)

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