Top women tennis players are to show up at the Athens Games

The big names of women’s tennis will make an appearance in Athens, after all. There was talk by several professional women players of boycotting the Olympic tournament because of the exclusion of two Germans by their Olympic committee. Anca Barna and Marlene Weingaertner were excluded by Germany’s National Olympic Committee because they did not meet their country’s selection requirement of reaching a Grand Slam semifinal or final of a tier-one event. But International Tennis Federation rules guarantee the top 56 ranked players automatic entry to the Olympics. Barna is ranked 46th and Weingaertner 52nd. Several women tennis players reacted angrily to the exclusion of the Germans. They had said they would consider boycotting the tournament, starting on August 15, unless the German Olympic Committee allowed the pair to take part. In the end, talk of a boycott fizzled. Justine Henin-Hardenne may be the women’s No. 1 in the rankings, but the in-form player of the moment appears to be the No. 2, France’s Amelie Mauresmo. Yesterday, she required only 51 minutes to demolish No. 27, Russia’s Elena Likhovtseva, 6-1, 6-0 at the final of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Among the favorites are the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, the defending Olympic Champions. At Sydney, in 2000, Venus won the singles and had also teamed with her sister to win the doubles. The two sisters have been battling injuries lately, however, and were forced to withdraw from the San Diego tournament last week. Venus suffered a wrist injury, while Serena experienced swelling in her left knee, on which she had an operation a year ago and which sidelined her for eight months. «Unfortunately, both had injuries. What counts is that they withdrew from that tournament in order to get ready for the Olympics,» said US team coach Zina Garrison. Andy Roddick and Roger Federer are leading a strong men’s draw. Absentees through injury are Argentina’s two top tennis players, Guillermo Coria, ranked No. 3, and Rolland Garros-winner Gastone Gaudio. This puts an end to Argentina’s best hope for their first gold since 1952.

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