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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kournikova Replaces Ill Williams at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, England -- Serena Williams is out of Wimbledon with what her father called a "terrible case of the flu.'' And sister Venus is also fighting the bug.

Serena's sudden withdrawal Thursday scotched a possible showdown between the two sisters in the fourth round and left Wimbledon - which begins Monday - without a marquee player.

Serena, 17, was seeded No. 10 and replaced by Russian Anna Kournikova, who was the highest-ranked player without a spot in the top 16. Kournikova will take Williams' place in the draw as the 17th-seeded player.

Richard Williams described No. 6-seeded Venus - who turned 19 on Thursday - as feeling "a little sluggish'' but hopeful of being at full strength for the two-week grass-court classic.

WTA Tour officials were shocked by the withdrawal after getting a brief statement from Wimbledon on Thursday saying only that Williams was ill and would not play.

With Serena out, at least eight women are still considered capable of winning the title, including defending Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic and Germany's Steffi Graf. Americans Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles and those brash teenagers - Martina Hingis, Williams and Kournikova are also considered strong contenders, even though many of the teen queens have fallen shy of expectations in major tournaments so far.

As the tournament opens, much focus will be on the men's side as five-time champion Pete Sampras seeks a record-tying 12th Grand Slam title. And American Andre Agassi is vying to become the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.

After failing to qualify for Wimbledon, losing to Danny Sapsford 3-6 7-6, (7-4) 6-4 in Tuesday qualifying, Petr Korda announced his retirement. He had hoped to retire after playing the grass-court classic.

Sixteen months ago, Korda reached No. 2 on the ATP Tour ranking after winning the Australian Open.

Korda's career has nose-dived in the wake of drug-taking charges after testing positive last year at Wimbledon for the steroid Nandrolene.

Korda - who maintains he doesn't know how the steroid got into his system- has been in a legal battle for a year with the International Tennis Federation, which is seeking to have him banned.

The case is now before a three-judge panel at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. The 31-year-old Korda, ranked 116 this week by the ATP Tour, said he was relieved it was over and criticized Wimbledon for not giving him a wild card.

"Right now, I'm relieved it's all over,'' he said.

"I learned on last Tuesday night that I wasn't going to get a wild card for Wimbledon, and it's bad that they don't recognize who you are.

"I would say the Wimbledon committee would have given me one, but not the LTA [Lawn Tennis Association]. "It has been a difficult year in which they took something away from me that I love the most: my passion for playing tennis.''