The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Agassi, Davenport give Open thumbs up
- I'm getting better but I'm still not 100 per cent: Dementieva

Melbourne: Former champions Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport declared themselves certain starters for the Australian Open but Russian Elena Dementieva remained in doubt Sunday as she battled to recover from heat illness.

Serena Williams, the 2003 women's champion in Melbourne, opens the action Monday vs Frenchwoman Camille Pin in an injury-hit women's singles draw which is without last year's finalists Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters. Defending champion Roger Federer is to follow Williams on to Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, where he will begin his title defence against French veteran Fabrice Santoro.

With Henin-Hardenne, Clijsters and former champion Jennifer Capriati all out injured, organisers of the season-opening Grand Slam breathed a sigh of relief when Davenport gave them the thumbs up after a bout of bronchitis in Sydney last week.

Davenport, the top seed and 2000 Australian Open champion, managed only one match in the Sydney International but said she had recovered after two days of rest and some practice.

'I'm feeling better and I'm 100 percent playing,' said Davenport, who seemed almost certain to retire after her Wimbledon semi-final loss to Russian Maria Sharapova but who ended the year as number one after a golden run of form.

'I've definitely got some more energy the last few days, gotten most of my voice back, so much better,' she said.

The American is due to take on 1994 Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez of Spain in the first round Tuesday.

Sixth seed Dementieva was far less certain after falling victim to scorching Australian summer temperatures and pulling out of the Sydney International Friday.

The French and US Open runner-up spent two days in bed trying to recover but was still unable to hit a ball by Sunday afternoon. 'This is the first day I've been able to get out of bed,' Dementieva said. 'I feel like I'm getting better but I'm still not 100 per cent.'

Dementieva is due to play Ukraine's Alyona Bondarenko in the first round Tuesday but said she would not make a decision on her fitness until Monday.

With the Open marking its 100th year, Agassi gave organisers reason to celebrate when he confirmed he had overcome a hip injury suffered in a warm-up even last week.

Agassi, whose late-blooming love affair with Melbourne began in 1995 with the first of his four titles, is seeded eighth and will face German qualifier Dieter Kindlmann in opening round Monday. The hip injury sparked concern that 34-year-old Agassi had played his last match in Melbourne but he came through a hastily arranged exhibition match against Tim Henman on Saturday and pronounced himself ready to go.

'I'm a 100 per cent starter and I'll be out there giving it everything I've got,' he said.

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