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Sabatini, Woodforde leave in weelchairs

By BRIAN DEWHURST

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Gabriela Sabatini and Mark Woodforde were carried off Flinders Court in wheelchairs Saturday after suffering ankle sprains in their third round matches at the Australian Open.

Sabatini, seeded second in the tournament and ranked third in the world, was in tears as she was wheeled from the court after spraining her left ankle in a spectacular spill during her match with West German Claudia Porwik.

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Eighty minutes later Woodforde was wheeled into the trainer's room when he turned his right ankle in running for a shot in his match against David Wheaton.

Both matches were played on the Rebound Ace rubber-based tennis surface. Three weeks ago Australian junior Jason Stoltenberg took a spill on the same spongy surface in Adelaide, South Australia and was placed on crutches.

Sabatini was leading 6-2, 0-1, when she raced in to reach a drop shot from Porwik. She bent down to reach for the ball, her left ankle twisted at a sharp angle and she crashed heavily onto the court on her left shoulder.

Officials rushed to her aid and peeled of her sock, but the ankle had already begun to swell. The ankle was packed in ice and Sabatiniwas taken to the locker room where she was treated by tournament doctor John Fraser, a former Wimbledon semifinalist and brother of Australian Davis Cup Captain Neale Fraser.

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The doctor examined the foot and ordered Sabatini taken immediately to a Melbourne hospital for X-rays. Sabatini may be out for six weeks.

'Sabatini is suffering from a lateral injury to her ankle,' Fraser said. 'At this stage there is no chance of her playing for some weeks. We will have to wait for the X-rays to see what damage has been done to her ligaments.'

Women's International Tennis Association physiotherapist, Kathleen Storia, said Sabatini had suffered one of the worst ankle injuries she had dealt with. 'She is in a lot of pain and Gabriela has a very high pain tolerance,' Storia said.

Wheaton won his first set 6-4 and was leading 5-4 and serving in the second. Wheaton hit a forehand that forced Woodforde to spin around and change directions. In making the move he fell down, twisting the ankle.

Officials packed his foot in ice, and after the regulaltory three minutes allowed for the treatment of an injury, umpire Steve Ulrich called time.

'Mister Woodforde must retire,' Ulrich announced to the boos of the fans.

Wheaton shook hands with Woodforde as the was Australian was placed in the wheelchair.

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