Years: 1992 - 2000
Although only 11 of the world's Top 20 competed in the men's event at Seoul 1988, by the time Barcelona came round four years later, the Olympic appeal had really caught on. All of the world's Top 5 men – Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker, Goran Ivanisevic and Pete Sampras – took part.
Yet at the end of a wonderful event, it was Switzerland's Marc Rosset who carried off the gold, winning a dramatic five-set final against Spain's Jordi Arrese 76(2) 64 36 46 86. Along the way Rosset had beaten both Courier and Ivanisevic, the proud bearer of the Croatian flag during the opening ceremony.
Ivanisevic ran out of energy in the semifinals after having battled through four successive five-set matches on the slow clay to get there. Ivanisevic won a bronze medal in singles and, with Goran Prpic, another bronze in doubles.
Germany's Boris Becker and Michael Stich, who won the gold medal in doubles, helped provide the perfect riposte to those who hinted that the top players were still not totally committed.
With the King and Queen of Spain as ardent supporters, there was naturally considerable pressure on the Barcelona native Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario to win gold in the women's singles, but in the semifinals she was outlasted by an inspired Jennifer Capriati. Capriati went on to play one of her greatest matches to beat Graf from a set down in the final 36 63 64.
Stone Mountain Park, 16 miles east of Atlanta, was the setting for the 1996 Olympic Tennis Event where the respective singles champions, Andre Agassi and Lindsay Davenport, naturally enjoyed ecstatic support from the large American crowds.
Davenport, the ninth seed, dropped only one set in reaching the final where she beat Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 76(8) 62. The bronze medal went to Jana Novotna in a play-off against Mary Joe Fernandez, who had the compensation of winning gold in the doubles with Gigi Fernandez - no relation! That was actually a historic moment for the Fernandez duo, as they became the only players to successfuly defend an Olympic tennis title, having also won gold in Barcelona.
From what was eventually a weaker than expected men's singles field, including only three of the Top 10, Agassi was fortunate to survive a stormy quarterfinal against Wayne Ferreira, in which he might have been disqualified for losing his temper as well as his serve.
But, in a one-sided final, he swept away Spain's Sergi Bruguera 62 63 61 in 77 minutes and watched by his father, a member of the Iranian Olympic boxing team in the 1952 Games, called it "the greatest accomplishment I have ever had in the sport." Leander Paes from India earned the bronze.
Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, won a first tennis gold medal for Australia. Having saved two match points in the semifinal against the Dutchmen Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis, the "Woodies" beat Great Britain's Neil Broad and Tim Henman for the golden glory.
What Woodbridge and Woodforde discovered in Atlanta, Yevgeny Kafelnikov had confirmed in Sydney: however many Grand Slam titles you win on the tennis tour, an Olympic gold medal counts for more among a large swathe of sports fans.
Kafelnikov, who had become Russia’s first player to be ranked world No. 1 after winning the French Open in 1996 and Australian Open in 1999, cites his gold medal from the 2000 Sydney Olympics as his greatest achievement, and the one he is most respected for back home. He beat Tommy Haas in the gold medal match.
The smile on the face of Arnaud Di Pasquale when he beat Roger Federer to take bronze – and Federer’s corresponding dejection – also testify to how much any medal means to even the biggest-earning tennis professionals.
If Steffi Graf had gilded her Grand Slam in 1988, Venus Williams did something similar in 2000. Arriving in Sydney unbeaten since the French Open, the elder of the two tennis-playing sisters prevented Russia from taking both singles gold medals when she beat Elena Dementieva to extend her personal unbeaten run to 35 matches. She also took the doubles gold with her sister, Serena.
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