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Agassi's coach: Andre will play Wimbledon

Andre Agassi's wrist is mending, his elbow is sore and his confidence is shaken. Despite all that, Agassi will defend his title at Wimbledon next week, his coach said Wednesday.

"He has every intention of playing; he is playing," coach Nick Bollettieri said. "There is no doubt he is going."

Agassi hedged a little Tuesday when asked if he was certain he would be playing at Wimbledon. The question came up after he lost to Carl-Uwe Steeb in the first round of a grass-court event _ his first tournament in more than two months because of the wrist injury.

"My heart tells me to play Wimbledon," Agassi said. "My head tells me one year of Wimbledon is not worth making the injury worse and maybe affecting my later career."

Agassi practiced for two hours Wednesday with Michael Chang, taking off an elbow brace and hitting with full power.

"I was very encouraged by the fact that he could play again," Bollettieri said. "The main thing is that he is going to play again. We are enthusiastic that the injury is going to allow him to go to Wimbledon."

Agassi, who declined to be interviewed Wednesday, experienced some pain in his right elbow while practicing Monday and wore a brace in his match against Steeb.

"But the main injury seems to be okay," Bollettieri said.

Bollettieri said that despite the loss, both he and Agassi were encouraged.

"It was much more serious than anyone had imagined," Bollettieri said. "We were afraid that if the injury wasn't taken care of by the treatment that he had, he would need an operation. It got worse, worse, worse it wasn't a headache that would go away."

Bollettieri indicated the injury even threatened Agassi's career.

"It would be a shame for Andre not to continue playing. It would be a great loss for everybody, for the game of tennis," he said. "He'll be back. He's got too much talent not to be back."

Rain washed out play Wednesday in Halle, and Agassi practiced indoors, on carpet, with Chang. Chang was knocked out in the first round by Bernd Karbacher, who is Agassi's opponent in the opening match at Wimbledon on Monday.

Bollettieri said Agassi had a "very tough first round" against Karbacher in Wimbledon.

"It all hinges on his first match. If he can get past two-three matches, the court becomes more like a clay court," Bollettieri said.

Elsewhere

Manchester Open: Defending champion Jacco Eltingh extended his winning streak at the Manchester (England) Open to seven matches, defeating Richard Fromberg 6-3, 7-5 at the grass-court tuneup for Wimbledon. Eltingh hasn't dropped a set in two years at Manchester. Other winners included second-seeded Henrik Holm, third-seeded Cedric Pioline and fourth-seeded Wally Masur.

Volkswagen Cup: Rain washed out play at the women's grass-court tournament in Eastbourne, England. Officials made contingency plans for the tournament to run over an extra day until Sunday, which would be just 24 hours before the start of Wimbledon. Tournament director George Hendon: "We will not move the singles indoors. This a grass-court tournament the week before Wimbledon. I can't see any purpose in moving the event indoors."

IP Cup: Three of the top four seeds still alive _ third-seeded Magnus Gustafsson, fifth-seeded Francisco Clavet and sixth-seeded Carlos Costa _ scored straight-set victories to reach the quarterfinals in Genoa, Italy.

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