OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Tennis: Rosset's triumph

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The Independent Online
THE banner read 'Forca Jordi', which in another north-east city would mean something on the lines of 'Come On Geordie Lad'. And Jordi Arrese did come on yesterday, but not quite far enough. Fighting back to parity from two sets down, he lost his chance of an Olympic tennis gold when he was beaten by Switzerland's Marc Rosset.

The 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 8-6 final defeat was cruel for anyone who had to endure 5hr 3min on a Centre Court baking in temperatures over 100F. But it was hard, too, on a crowd that had cherished a victory all the more because Arrese is Barcelona born and bred. Spain and Catalonia had to be content with silver.

The unseeded Rosset also had to endure contrasting emotions. Bolstered by a serve that was the fastest in the game in 1991 - he had 34 aces yesterday - he appeared poised for a straight-sets victory when he won the first-set tie-break 7-2 and then made the decisive break of his opponent's serve in the fourth game of the second.

The final set was a cameo of the match itself, Rosset getting his nose in front with a 4-1 lead only to double fault and squander his lead on his next service game. Arrese drew level at 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6 and was on the verge of making 7-7 at 40-15 when his momentum suddenly and dramatically stopped.

Rosset seized on poor-length serves to take the game to deuce and then ran round two balls on the backhand wing to thump passing shots with his forehand.

It was a bad day all round for the host nation, with Gigi and Mary Joe Fernandez (no relation) of the United States beating Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez (little playing relation) 7-5, 2-6, 6-2. in the women's doubles final.

The match was a pile of breakages, the server surrendering games 13 times. Gigi remained aware, however, of where the ball should go for maximum effect. Usually that was straight down the middle as the Spanish duo, both with Barcelona homes, clearly are not happy neighbours on a tennis court. After you Conchita, no after you Arantxa, was the theme.

After them came Arrese. It was a day Spain would choose to forget.

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