OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Sanchez ambition: Olympic Countdown: Tennis

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The Independent Online
FOR some, consternation at the names missing from Barcelona may well outweigh the sense of anticipation for an event that exudes quality.

Among the absentees are a triumvirate of star-spangled Americans, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and the Wimbledon champion, Andre Agassi, who were omitted from the US Tennis Association's selection. The women's field has been even more seriously depleted, with three of the world's leading quartet, Monica Seles, Gabriela Sabatini and Martina Navratilova, all barred after declining to represent their countries in last year's Federation Cup. This can only bring an expectant gleam to the eyes of the reigning Olympic champion, Steffi Graf.

While Graf and Jim Courier, winner on clay at the last two French Opens, are expected to be nominated as the respective top seeds, many believe, not only that the host nation, attuned to the red clay and urged on by raucous, partisan crowds, will sweep the singles, but that the victors will come from the same family. Step forward Emilio Sanchez and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, the game's best brother-and-sister combination since John and Tracey Austin won the Wimbledon mixed doubles title in 1980.

To Emilio, who deems striking gold an even more profound thrill than winning a Grand Slam, the incentive is clear. 'Spain doesn't have many chances to make medals,' he reasons. 'One sport where we have chances is tennis.' Sanchez's task will be eased by the absence of Carlos Costa, a Barcelona native whose rise into the world top 10 this year came too late to earn him a place in the Spanish squad.

Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie, the British No 1s, both elected not to take part, leaving Monique Javer as the chief British medal hope. 'I have no comprehension of their decision,' said Javer, whose father is American. 'Growing up in America, the Olympics is the most prestigious thing you can do.'

Another member of the British squad, Samantha Smith, who was due to play in the doubles only, arrived in Barcelona yesterday to learn she had gained an unexpected place in the singles due to a late withdrawal.

Yesterday's first-round draw guaranteed Britain at least one player in the second round when Smith was pitted against Devon's Sara Gomer.

In the men's singles, Andrew Castle drew the home-town favourite, Sergi Brugeuera, while Chris Wilkinson has an excellent chance of further progress when he plays Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui.

DRAW FOR BRITISH SQUAD: Men's singles: C Wilkinson v Y El Aynaoui (Mor); A Castle v S Bruguera (Sp). Women's singles: M Javer v B Paulus (Aut); S Gomer v S Smith. Men's doubles: Castle and Wilkinson v J Frana and C Miniussi (Arg). Women's doubles: Smith and C Wood v L Garrone and R Reggi-Concato (It).

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