OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Tennis: Rosset barrier to Arrese's dream

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The Independent Online
JORDI ARRESE, of Spain, battles for the gold medal in today's final of the Olympic men's tennis event with the whole country desperate for a home victory.

Arrese, the local favourite, meets Marc Rosset, of Switzerland, in the Vall D'Hebron arena with the chance of the greatest success of his hitherto modest career.

Best remembered for stopping Bjorn Borg in the Swede's comeback in Monte Carlo last year, Arrese will achieve everlasting fame if he beats the 21-year-old from Geneva and succeeds Czechoslovakia's Miloslav Mecir, the gold medallist four years ago.

'It is great for me to take part in an Olympic final in Barcelona,' he admitted. 'It is the best opportunity I could dream of.' To keep his run intact, Arrese said this week he had been visiting a local church and lighting candles to signal upcoming victories. Before his semi-final he went again, only to find there were no candles to light, but he still won.

Arrese, ranked 30 in the world, and Rosset, 43, are unlikely finalists from an original field which included Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic and Michael Chang. While bigger names have been gasping for water in roasting day-time temperatures, Arrese is worried the weather will not be hot enough for the final.

'It wasn't that hot today,' he complained after his semi-final on Thurday against the Russian, Andrei Cherkasov.

'I don't like playing under lights but luckily the final is being played at 2pm (12.00 GMT) which is good for me. We'll see the difference.'

Compared with Rosset, who has beaten world No 1 Courier, clay court specialist Emilio Sanchez, and Wimbledon finalist Ivanisevic the Spaniard has had an easier path to the final.

Cherkasov is the only seed he has met in five matches, but stomach problems have forced him to display considerable determination at times.