MELBOURNE -- Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Lleyton Hewitt knew they needed to do something drastic. Roger Federer was winning practically every tournament, and the gap between him and everyone else in men's tennis was growing.
Agassi tuned his 34-year-old body like never before, looking to gain whatever edge he could when he next meets the top-ranked Swiss player. Agassi, however, hurt his hip during a tuneup match against Roddick and it's unclear whether he will play when the Australian Open, the season's first Grand Slam event, begins tomorrow at Melbourne Park.
Roddick, ranked No. 2, switched coaches. He ended an 18-month association with Brad Gilbert that had produced his first major title, joining former US Davis Cup coach Dean Goldfine and overhauling his practice regimen.
Hewitt, ranked No. 3, bulked up his upper body, hoping it might help him end a six-match losing string to Federer that included the finals of the US Open and season-ending Masters Cup.
"Roger has taken the game to a new level," said Hewitt, the former US Open and Wimbledon champion who at one time led Federer, 6-1, head to head.
Federer won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open among his 11 titles in 2004, becoming the first man since Mats Wilander in 1988 to capture three of the four majors in one season.
Adding another title last week at Qatar -- his 23d -- he improved his winning streak in tour finals to 14 and stretched his winning run to 21 consecutive matches.
On the women's side, top-ranked Lindsay Davenport pulled out of the Sydney International and withdrew from this month's Hopman Cup to rest her injured knee, said she had bronchitis but expected to be OK. "I've been sick all week," said Davenport, the 2000 Australian champion. "At some point you've got to stop. My energy level was about 30 percent. Hopefully, antibiotics and rest will all help."
Last year's champion, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and the runner-up, Kim Clijsters, didn't make it to Melbourne. Henin-Hardenne withdrew because of a knee injury. Clijsters has had a wrist problem for a long time.
Jennifer Capriati, who won Australian titles in 2001 and 2002, withdrew because of an ailing right shoulder that has troubled her since November.
On the plus side, 2003 champion Serena Williams is back after missing last year's event and spending much of the season sidelined with injuries. There are four Russians in the top 10, all spurring each other on. Three of them won majors last season and one lost two finals at majors. No. 3 Anastasia Myskina was the first Russian woman to win a Grand Slam title when she beat compatriot Elena Dementieva at the French Open in June. Maria Sharapova defeated Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final, and Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Dementieva in the US Open final. A fifth Russian, Vera Zvonareva, is ranked 11th but seeded ninth in the Australian.