Top-ranked Serena Williams, a last-minute withdrawal last year at Melbourne Park, is the top women's seed for next week's Australian Open.

Men's No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, bidding to become the first Australian in 27 years to win the major on home soil, topped the men's seedings, which were announced yesterday by tournament organizers.

Andre Agassi, a seven-time Grand Slam winner who pulled out of his defense of the Australian Open because of a wrist injury last January, was seeded No. 2 among the men.

With the exception of injured Tim Henman, ranked No. 8, the rest of the top 10 followed the ATP entry rankings leader board: Marat Safin of Russia, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya of Spain, Roger Federer of Switzerland, Jiri Novak of the Czech Republic and Albert Costa of Spain.

American Andy Roddick was seeded ninth when Henman withdrew and No. 12-ranked David Nalbandian, last year's Wimbledon runner-up, was seeded 10th after world No. 11 Tommy Haas withdrew.

Defending champion Thomas Johansson of Sweden was injured and won't be defending his title, while Pete Sampras, the reigning U.S. Open champion and a two-time winner at Australia, won't be competing.

Marcelo Rios, runner-up in 1998, Greg Rusedski of Britain and Frenchman Arnaud Clement, runner-up in 2001, also are sidelined with injuries.

Williams is chasing her fourth consecutive major. An ankle injury forced her out of the season-opening Grand Slam last year, but she returned to win the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.


Lemieux to Sit Out

Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux will miss a game with an injury for the first time this season when he sits out tonight's contest against Toronto because of a sore groin.

The team also learned top goaltender Johan Hedberg will be out indefinitely with a broken collarbone, an injury that could sideline him for several weeks or longer.

Lemieux, the NHL's top scorer with 68 points in 40 games, was injured during the second period of Tuesday's 6-3 loss to the Islanders. He tried to return for a shift after getting hurt, only to come back to the bench immediately after losing a faceoff.


L. Hernandez Arrested

San Francisco Giants pitcher Livan Hernandez was arrested for allegedly trying to hit an elderly man with a golf club during a street fight.

Hernandez, 27, was charged with felony aggravated assault after he got into a "violent" scuffle yesterday with the man, who received a minor cut on the back of his head, according to a witness account cited in a police statement.

The pitcher, who won the 1997 World Series MVP with the Florida Marlins, went into his car's trunk and pulled out a golf club, the unidentified witness told police. . . .

Pitchers Terry Mulholland and Dave Burba returned to the Cleveland Indians, hours before the midnight deadline for them to re-sign. Mulholland agreed to a one-year contract and Burba agreed to a minor league deal.


O'Leary Promoted by Vikings

George O'Leary was promoted to defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, replacing the fired Willie Shaw. O'Leary, who resigned as coach at Notre Dame after just five days in 2001 when he admitted he lied on his resume, takes over a defense that ranked 26th in the NFL this season. . . .

Florida State wide receiver Anquan Boldin (62 catches for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns) will pass up his senior year to enter the NFL draft. Junior linebacker Michael Boulware decided to stay for another season. . . .

Musa Smith will enter the draft after becoming the first Georgia running back since 1992 to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. . . . Florida defensive lineman Clint Mitchell (121 tackles in three seasons) will skip his senior season and enter the draft. . . .

Florida State junior defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was charged with felony grand theft for his role in receiving unauthorized discounts on merchandise purchased at a mall.


Appealing for Williams

Jayson Williams's attorneys asked an appeals court in Trenton, N.J., to dismiss manslaughter charges against the former NBA star, arguing the grand jury presentation was flawed beyond repair.

Defense attorneys say the grand jury that returned the indictment never should have been told that Williams exercised his right to remain silent after a limousine driver was shot to death early Feb. 14. They also accuse prosecutors of introducing rumors connecting Williams to organized crime while leaving out evidence that he was distraught after the shooting and tried to help the victim.


Parreira Returns for Brazil

Carlos Alberto Parreira, who coached Brazil to the World Cup title in 1994, has returned to the national team. He replaces Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led the team to its fifth World Cup victory in 2002. Scolari is now coach of Portugal. Mario Zagallo, Brazil's coach in the 1998 World Cup, when the team lost to France in the final, will be part of Parreira's coaching staff, as he was in 1994. . . . D.C. United goalkeepers coach Mark Simpson has left the MLS club to become an assistant coach of the A-League's Hampton Roads Mariners.


Pigskin Dinner Next Week

The Pigskin Club of Washington will hold its annual banquet and awards dinner honoring local high school, collegiate and professional football players and coaches Jan. 17 at the Capitol Hilton. Tickets are $90. For more information, call 301-856-2536.

Serena Williams will bid for her fourth straight Grand Slam title starting next week in Melbourne.