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Graf bows out of Italian Open

Steffi Graf, off the women's tennis tour since March because of a strained hamstring, has pulled out of this week's Italian Open in a further blow to her comeback attempt.

The German Sports Agency also reported Saturday that the world's former top-ranked player will miss the French Open from May 25-June 7 because of the injury.

The Italian Open begins Monday and organizers expected Graf to play, but they said she still is bothered by the left hamstring injury sustained during a semifinal against Lindsay Davenport at Indian Wells on March 12.

That was Graf's second tournament in nine months. The German, who dominated women's tennis for a decade, has been attempting a comeback since having reconstructive surgery on her left knee after last year's French Open. She has slipped to No. 33 in the world rankings.

MORE TENNIS: Top-ranked Martina Hingis cruised into the final of the German Grand Prix in Hamburg and meets second-seeded Jana Novotna for the clay-court title. Hingis took 51 minutes to defeat Barbara Schett 6-2, 6-2, and Novotna rallied to beat Patty Schnyder 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. Andre Agassi reached his first clay-court final in three years when he beat Galo Blanco 6-4, 6-4 in a semifinal at the BMW Open in Munich, Germany. Agassi faces seventh-seeded Thomas Enqvist, who beat Magnus Gustafsson 6-3, 6-4. Pete Sampras beat Alex Calatrava 7-6 (8-6), 6-3 in a semifinal at the AT&T Challenge in Duluth, Ga. He faces second seed Jason Stoltenberg, who overcame windy conditions and sixth-seeded Andrei Pavel 6-2, 6-4. Defending champion Mirjana Lucic advanced to the final of the Bol Open in Croatia by beating top-seeded Joanette Kruger 6-2, 6-1. Lucic meets Corina Morariu, whom she beat in last year's championship. Slava Dosedel beat Nicolas Lapenti 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a two-hour battle of clay-court specialists and advanced to the final of the Czech Open in Prague. Dosedel faces Fernando Meligeni, who defeated Dinu Pescariu 7-6, 7-6.

RUNNING: Keith Batten of Clearwater won his third straight local race at the PSTA Fun N' Sun 5K in Clearwater in 15 minutes, 33 seconds. After a wind-aided opening mile of 4:48, Batten pulled away from runner-up Keith Sawayda (15:45) of Clearwater. Andy Moss of Lakeland outleaned Toney Hall of Largo for third as they both crossed the finish line in 16:57. Judy Maguire of Clearwater won the women's division in 17:56 and was ninth in a field of 250. Kim Donaldson of St. Petersburg took second (20:27) and Largo's Kathy Klesmit, 46, third in 21:35.

HOCKEY: The Islanders' Bryan Smolinski had two power-play goals and assisted on another, leading the United States to a 5-2 victory over Switzerland at the World Championships in Zurich in the team's first international match since the room-trashing incident at the Nagano Olympics. No Olympians are on the team. "I guess we're here to save face a little bit, to clean up the act," Smolinski said. On Friday, defending champion Canada beat Austria 5-1, but Canadian coach Andy Murray had scathing criticism for the officiating. Canada scored twice in the first period despite 10 minutes in penalties. "It was brutal refereeing," Murray said. "They don't have to give Canada a penalty just because we're scoring. There was no reason for it today. It was unfair."

BOXING: Fabrice Tiozzo stopped Terry Ray in the first round of his first WBA cruiserweight title defense. Tiozzo sent Ray to the canvas twice before a powerful right forced the referee to stop the fight. Hacine Cherifi withstood a ninth-round knockdown to take the WBC middleweight title from Keith Holmes by unanimous decision. Spencer Oliver was hospitalized after being knocked down by Sergei Devakov while trying to defend his European super-bantamweight title in London.

COLLEGE SOFTBALL: Host Florida swept Georgia 8-0 and 4-0. Emily Marino hit two homers in the first game, and Chelsey Sakizzie won both. Simpson College's Kelly Schade got her 47th career shutout 3-0 over Upper Iowa on Friday, setting an NCAA Division III record. Allegheny's Laurie Machuga (1993-96) and Gina LaMandre of the College of New Jersey (1982-85) had 46.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Vanderbilt athletic director Todd Turner said the school might consider a deal to move a home game against UF to Orlando. The Citrus Bowl has asked Vanderbilt to switch a game from Nashville, reportedly for more than $1-million. Three Northwestern State players were suspended after police accused them of breaking into a campus building and stealing a television set. Trell Thomas Warren Jr., Burnell Jordan Jr. and Darvell De'Sire Bivens were charged with simple burglary.

COLLEGE GOLF: Jon Roddy, who recently lost his spot on his team, continued his push for individual honors at the 12th annual National Minority College Championships. Roddy, a sophomore at Jackson State in Mississippi, matched par 72 with four birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey on the 6,250-yard South course at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie.

SOCCER: Maryland police were searching for an English star who disappeared after being charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy. Justin Fashanu is believed to have fled the country, Howard County police said. Fashanu was set to coach a new minor-league professional team in Columbia. Charges were filed April 3 after a 17-year-old boy said Fashanu sexually assaulted him.

BOWLING: Norm Duke beat weeklong leader Eric Forkel 279-256 to win the championship in the PBA Tucson Open.

SWIMMING: Indianapolis was selected host city for the 2000 Olympic team trials. USA Swimming tentatively set the trials for Aug. 9-15. Anna Kozlova recorded a rare perfect score in her solo final to help Santa Clara sweep events for the sixth straight year in the National Synchronized Championships in Federal Way, Wash.

DERBY LANE: Snow Bow won the 59th annual Gold Trophy Juvenile Stakes, closing in 31.15 to upset betting favorite Flying Hades.

_ DAVE THEALL, TIMES WIRES

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