Sunday, August 8, 2004

Olympic boycott unlikely to occur



By Dustin Dow
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - A proposed Olympic boycott by WTA Tour players is unlikely to happen, a WTA official said Saturday, which means the field for next week's Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open will remain almost unchanged.

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If the players boycott the Olympics, the fallout could open the possibility that some of the Tour's best players might want to play here Aug. 14-22, the same week of the Olympic Tennis Event.

WTA communications director Darrell Fry said Tour players agreed in a meeting with Tour CEO Larry Scott that boycotting the Olympics would be detrimental to women's tennis and the sport in general.

"It was clear to everybody in the room that the best course of action was to go ahead and compete," Fry said. "It is in everyone's best interest that the players play in the Olympics and receive the (rankings) points that the WTA stipulated they would get for playing in the Olympics."

At the center of the controversy is the German National Olympic Committee's decision to deny two women's tennis players a spot in the Olympics despite the players having met the standards of the WTA and the International Olympic Committee. The WTA agreed to allow the Olympic Tennis Event to figure into the Tour's point system with the stipulation that entries would be based on the WTA's ranking system for the top 56 players.

Two German players, No. 72 Marlene Weingartner and No. 55 Anca Barna, qualified for the Olympics according to their WTA rankings but did not meet the Germany Olympic Committee's higher specific standards.

"The exclusion of WTA Tour athletes who earned a place in the Olympic Tennis Event is contrary to the principles of fairness and meritocracy upon which the WTA Tour, our ranking system and the Olympic Games themselves are based," Scott said in a statement, "and represents a failure of our partners to live up to the intent of our Olympic Tennis Event agreement."

When it was learned that Weingartner and Barna would not be permitted to play in the Olympics, a movement by WTA players to boycott the Olympics gained strength last week until Scott met with the players.

Because they won't be playing in the Olympics, Weingartner and Barna will be allowed entrance into the 32-player field in Cincinnati even though the entry deadline has passed. Weingartner was already part of the field, but if Barna chooses to play in Cincinnati, her addition would bump Tatiana Panova, the lowest-ranked player already entered.

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E-mail ddow@enquirer.com




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