Novotna on the attack

Tennis
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The Independent Online
The Olympic singles exposed a rift in the women's doubles partnership of Jana Novotna and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. Novotna lost to Sanchez Vicario 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 in Wednesday's singles semi-finals, then claimed to be the more popular player. Novotna also accused her friend and partner on the tour of poor sportsmanship.

"She's been questioning every call there is, even when there's no reason for it," Novotna said. "That's really upsetting because you wouldn't expect that from a player of her calibre. You would expect a little bit more fair play. She doesn't do it only to me. She does it with everybody."

Sanchez Vicario denied questioning calls. "I was just doing my job and concentrating and playing well," the Spaniard said. "Maybe she was disappointed because every time she has a chance, she lost against me."

In singles, Sanchez Vicario has won seven of 13 matches against Novotna. They have been playing doubles together on the WTA Tour since 1994, but Novotna said they are friends only "in a professional way".

"I know when I step on the court that I'm a more popular player than she is," the Czech said. "Whatever she's doing or whenever she's like that, she has to live with it."

Sanchez Vicario said: "It's hard to have close friends on the tour because there is a lot of rivalry. But we have a good relationship off the court. We have a good partnership when we play doubles but singles is different."

Later, Novotna and Sanchez Vicario returned for a doubles semi-final - this time against each other. Novotna and Helena Sukova beat Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez 6-2, 7-6.

Vicario's opponent in today's singles final will be Lindsay Davenport, who was in tears after she had beaten her best friend and American team- mate, Mary Joe Fernandez, in a contest neither wanted.

"I'm sorry," Davenport told Fernandez at the net after winning the semi- final 6-2 7-6. Later in the dressing-rooms she broke down in tears.

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