Serena Williams has flu and will miss Wimbledon. And sister Venus is also fighting the bug.

Serena's sudden withdrawal yesterday ended the possibility of a fourth-round showdown between the two and left Wimbledon--which begins Monday--without one of its marquee players.

"She has a terrible case of the flu," her father, Richard Williams, told the WTA Tour. "I took her to the doctor this morning and he told her it was best to rest and take it easy."

The 17-year-old player, seeded No. 10, was replaced by Russia's Anna Kournikova, who was the highest-ranked player without a spot in the top 16. Kournikova will take Williams's place in the draw as the 17th-seeded player.

Richard Williams described No. 6-seeded Venus as feeling "a little sluggish" but optimistic of being at full strength for the two-week grass-court classic.

WTA Tour officials were startled by the withdrawal after getting a statement from Wimbledon yesterday, saying only that Serena Williams was ill and would not play. . . .

In Eastbourne, Kournikova defeated France's Nathalie Dechy in the quarterfinals, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), and will face third-seeded Nathalie Tauziat--runner-up at Wimbledon a year ago--who rallied to beat Russia's Elena Likhovtseva, 0-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Golf

Pebble Beach Course Sold

A group that includes Arnold Palmer, Clint Eastwood and Peter Ueberroth agreed to buy the Pebble Beach golf course in California for $820 million. The group that Ueberroth, a former baseball commissioner, put together also includes former United Airlines chief executive Richard Ferris and General Electric Pensions.

College Basketball

GW Women Assistants

George Washington University women's basketball coach Joe McKeown has hired Kathy Wilson and Kara McVey as assistants for next season. Wilson was an assistant coach at Mississippi the past two seasons. McVey spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach at William & Mary.

Pro Basketball

76ers' Croce Hurt

Philadelphia 76ers owner Pat Croce was undergoing surgery last night at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia after suffering multiple fractures in his left leg in a motorcycle accident. Hospital spokeswoman Roseann Thompson said he was listed in fair condition. . . .

In a matchup of last season's WNBA and ABL players of the year, Houston's Cynthia Cooper came out the winner in Houston. Cooper, who has earned the WNBA's top honor twice, scored 23 of her game-high 30 points in the first half as the Comets beat the Utah Starzz, 93-73. ABL player of the year Natalie Williams had 16 points and 16 rebounds, but the Starzz (1-2) had 20 turnovers. . . . Sandy Brondello scored 17 of her 23 points in the second half and Jennifer Azzi scored the final nine for Detroit as the Shock beat the Orlando Miracle, 79-74, in its home opener. . . . Kedra Holland-Corn scored 16 points to lead visiting Sacramento to a 70-50 victory over Cleveland.

Motocross

Race Set for Sunday

The 10th annual National Motocross Championship of the American Motorcyclist Association will be held Sunday in Budds Creek, Md. Practice starts at 9 a.m., qualifying begins at 10:30 a.m. and the Pro Nationals begin at 1 p.m.

Cycling

Four Fail Drug Test

Four cyclists were thrown out of the Tour de Suisse when they flunked a pre-race drug test. The four showed abnormal levels of red blood cells in tests given to all 147 riders by the International Cycling Union before the race.

Sergei Gontchar of Ukraine was banned for having a level of red blood cells above 50 percent. Also bounced from the race were Austrian Harald Morscher, Italian Massimo Gimondi and Timothy Jones of Zimbabwe.

Boxing

De La Hoya to Change Class

Oscar De La Hoya said Wednesday he will leave the welterweight division to become a super welterweight after his Sept. 18 "battle of the welterweights" in Las Vegas with Felix Trinidad.

Locally

Special Olympics Flame Arrives

A ceremony will be held on the steps of the Capitol today at 11 a.m. to welcome the Special Olympics "flame of hope." The Greek ambassador to the United States, Alexander Philon, and Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) will be present, along with area law enforcement officials, Special Olympic volunteers, supporters and athletes.

On Saturday, the flame will be carried to the Old Town Alexandria City Hall, and eventually to Raleigh, N.C., for the world summer games on June 26-July 4. . . .

Charles F. Wellford, the University of Maryland's faculty athletic representative, was elected president of the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 1999-2000 academic year.

CAPTION: Anna Kournikova will replace the ailing Serena Williams in Wimbledon draw, and will be seeded 17th.