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Bad back prevents Agassi's comeback

Andre Agassi withdrew from the SAP Open because of a strained lower back, the latest injury setback for the star player.

Agassi told tournament director Bill Rapp late Sunday night he couldn't play. Agassi experienced severe pain in his lower back and down his legs during a workout Sunday, tournament officials said in a news release.

"It's really disappointing to miss this year's tournament," Agassi said. "And I was really looking forward to playing again in the bay area."

Agassi, 35, ranked No. 8 in the world, has played only four matches since reaching the U.S. Open final in September. He sprained his left ankle playing racquetball Oct. 12 and aggravated the injury during the season-ending Masters Cup, where he was upset by Nicolay Davydenko in the first round.

He pulled out of last month's Australian Open because of the injury then lost to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the quarterfinals of the International Tennis Championships this month.

In first-round action, Vincent Spadea beat Sam Querrey 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-2.

COPA TELM David Nalbandian pulled out of the event in Buenos Aires because of a strained abdominal muscle and will miss at least three weeks. Ranked No. 4 in the world, he was hurt at the Australian Open and aggravated it last weekend during a Davis Cup match. First-round winners included hometown favorite Guillermo Coria, 6-1, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2) over Jiri Vanek, and Juan Carlos Ferrero, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 over Juan Martin del Potro.

OPEN 13: Tim Henman pulled out of the event in Marseille, France, because of a back injury. Rafael Nadal, the top seed, is scheduled to play his first match today (against Olivier Rochus) since injuring his left foot in October.

STEROID BAN: Karol Beck was suspended for two years by the International Tennis Federation after testing positive at last year's Davis Cup semifinal. Beck, 23, ranked No. 85, has three weeks to appeal.

SOCCER

Adu rumors denied

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said the club has no plans to sign American teenager Freddy Adu. A week after MLS denied reports Adu would be sent to fellow Premier League team Chelsea, Ferguson denied suggestions he would go to the team headed by Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer. Adu plays for D.C. United, but his contract is held by MLS. He often has said he would like to play in Europe and Chelsea would be his top option.

WOMEN: American Tiffeny Milbrett will join the Chelsea Ladies FC. Milbrett, 35, who won the 1999 World Cup and Olympic gold in 1996, has 100 goals in 204 international appearances. She currently plays for Vancouver of the W-League, but the Premier League schedule won't clash.

HORSES

Hall nominees revealed

Lemon Drop Kid and trainer Neil Howard are among the new nominees to the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame. The list of 87 horses, trainers and jockeys was nominated by fans and those who work in the industry. Besides winning the 1999 Belmont, Lemon Drop Kid won the 1999 Travers and was champion older horse in 2000. Howard has trained winners of 70 stakes races during a 30-year career, including 2003 horse of the year Mineshaft and 1990 Preakness winner Summer Squall. Final voting is in April with an announcement in May.

ET CETERA

TAE KWON DO: Steven Lopez, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion, was suspended for three months after testing positive for a prohibited substance from an over-the-counter vapor inhaler. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said he did not take it to enhance his performance.

Compiled from Times wires.

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