OLYMPICS TENNIS ROSTER WILL HAVE MAJOR ABSENTEES
BOSTON — If Boris Becker were to win Wimbledon, it could be the best and worst of outcomes for tennis. On one hand, a Becker victory would mark a return to glory of one of Wimbledon's most exciting modern champions. On the other, it would create a noticeable void at the Olympics, since Becker doesn't plan to play in Atlanta.
"For other sports, the Olympics is the pinnacle," Becker has said. "For tennis, I don't think it is."
Becker has called winning the men's doubles title at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics "a great experience, but I've done that." One can't imagine the three-time Wimbledon champion making a similar utterance about Wimbledon.
Becker will not be the lone Olympic no-show among the top men. His 1992 gold-medal-winning doubles partner, Michael Stich, also plans to bypass the Centennial Games, as do defending singles champion Marc Rosset of Switzerland and highly ranked Thomas Muster of Austria.
Stich says that the summer tennis calendar is already chockablock with events and that playing both the Olympics and the US Open (Aug. 26-Sept. 8) would mean staying in the US for two months.
Barry MacKay, a Wimbledon tennis commentator for HBO and a former player, says nation-vs.-nation Davis Cup matches also contribute to the overloaded schedule. "As it is now, Davis Cup is a burden to players, a burden to the worldwide tour, and Cup play is certainly not where it was [in importance] when I used to play in the 1950s and '60s. Maybe incorporating the Davis Cup into the Olympics is something everybody should look at."
Despite some major absentees, Ron Woods, team administrator for the US squad, says "about 90 to 95 percent of the top players are going to play in the Olympics."
The US men's team will be led by Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, who could meet in the final. Monica Seles will head the US women's squad coached by Billie Jean King.
To be in the Olympics, a player must have made themselves available to play in the men's Davis Cup or the women's Federation Cup in two of the four years leading up to the Games. Because of injuries, Seles has not played the Fed Cup, but she is technically still eligible.
Seles's selection is controversial, since it leaves Mary Joe Fernandez, 1992 gold medalist in doubles and bronze medalist in singles, off the team. Fernandez missed out on a discretionary doubles slot when 1992 partner Gigi Fernandez, a doubles specialist, was chosen.
Jennifer Capriati, who is off the tour temporarily and is not ranked high enough to make the US roster, will not defend her Olympic title. She defeated Steffi Graf in the 1992 Olympic final. Now Graf is entered in both the singles and doubles, a rarity for her.