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Davenport Beats Sanchez Vicario To Win Gold

August 2, 1996

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (AP) _ With help from a friendly net cord, second-generation Olympian Lindsay Davenport won the tennis gold today by beating Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 7-6 (8-6), 6-2.

``It’s definitely the most proud I’ve been my life,″ said Davenport, 20. ``No matter what happens to me, I’ll always be a gold medalist.″

Davenport failed to convert two set points in the tiebreaker, but with a 7-6 lead she hit a backhand that kissed the cord, then skipped over the net for a winner.

``That’s the luckiest I’ve ever gotten on such a big point,″ she said.

In the second set, Davenport broke serve three times to pull away.

The victory was easily the biggest of her career. The 10th-ranked Californian has never advanced beyond the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam. She was 0-5 previously against Sanchez Vicario.

In the match for the bronze, Jana Novotna erased two set points in the opening set and beat Mary Joe Fernandez 7-6 (8-6), 6-4.

Andre Agassi clinched at least a silver Thursday by beating Leander Paes 7-6 (7-5), 6-3. Agassi faces Spaniard Sergi Bruguera in the final Saturday.

The ninth-seeded Davenport became the third American woman to win a gold in singles, joining Jennifer Capriati (1992) and Helen Wills (1924). Her father, Wink, played volleyball for the United States at the 1968 Olympics.

The third-seeded Sanchez Vicario of Spain earned the silver, her fourth Olympic medal. She won a silver in doubles and a bronze in singles at Barcelona, and she won a bronze in doubles Thursday with Conchita Martinez.

Novotna, who upset top seed Monica Seles in the quarterfinals, earned her third Olympic medal, but her first in singles. Fernandez fell short in a bid for her fourth medal.

In a 57-minute first set, Fernandez had a set point at 5-3 and another in the tiebreaker at 6-5. But the sixth-seeded Novotna came back and, after serving back-to-back double faults in the tiebreaker, closed out the set with a pair of winners from the baseline.

``Every time I had set point, Jana came up with a really good point,″ Fernandez said. ``She played too good.″

Notovna broke the American’s serve in the second set to lead 5-4, and on match point the seventh-seeded Fernandez netted a forehand.

``The first set took a lot out of me,″ Fernandez said. ``I think that was decisive for both of us.″

Novotna, playing for the Czech Republic, and Fernandez will meet again Saturday with a gold at stake. Fernandez and Gigi Fernandez face Novotna and Helena Sukova in the doubles final.

Agassi advanced to the best-of-5 final against the unseeded Bruguera, who beat Fernando Meligeni of Brazil 7-6 (11-9), 6-2.

``It would be unbelievable to win a gold medal,″ the top-seeded Agassi said. ``This will be a huge match to me.″

Paes, seeking India’s first medal in any sport since 1980, will play Meligeni for the bronze.

Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez won the bronze in doubles by beating Manon Bollegraf and Brenda Schultz-McCarthy of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-3.

Marc-Kevin Goellner and David Prinosil of Germany won the bronze in men’s doubles, beating Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands 6-2, 7-5.

Agassi could become the first American to win the gold in men’s singles since Vincent Richards in 1924. Against Bruguera he has a 5-2 record, with both of the Spaniard’s victories coming on clay. Stone Mountain has hardcourts.

``If we’re on clay, then I’m stressing a little bit,″ Agassi said. ``Definitely his best surface is clay.″

Agassi had lost four of his previous seven matches coming into the Olympics. He’ll leave Atlanta with not only a medal, but newfound momentum for the U.S. Open later this month.

``When he’s on, he’s the best player in the world, and especially on these courts,″ said Bruguera, a two-time French Open champion. ``It will be a very, very difficult match for me.″

Even before the opening ceremonies, Agassi equated the Olympics with a Grand Slam, and he has played with a passion sometimes absent from his game. But Agassi encountered more difficulty than expected against Paes, a wild-card entry ranked No. 127.

``He hit like maybe 25 drop shots,″ Agassi said. ``That’s strange. But just because he plays strange doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s just strange.″

Pockets of fans in the crowd of 11,000 broke into frequent chants of ``In-di-a! In-di-a!″ But when Agassi won the tiebreaker to take the first set, cheers for the United States may have been audible in Atlanta, 16 miles away.

Paes wore his cap backward in the second set but failed to reverse his fortunes. He erased six break points before floating a volley long to give Agassi a 5-3 lead. On match point Paes hit a forehand wide, and a jubilant Agassi waved, blew kisses and bowed to the crowd.

Among those absent has been Agassi’s father, Mike, who gets nervous watching his son play. The elder Agassi was an Olympic boxer for Iran in 1948 and 1952.

What would a gold medal mean to dad?

``I imagine that would probably be the greatest accomplishment I could have in this sport _ besides winning every match I play,″ Agassi said with a smile. ``He might prefer that.″

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