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WTA advises players not to boycott Olympics

Officials met with the players who suggested an Olympic boycott if Anca Barna and Weingartner were not included in the team.
PTI | By Associated Press, Montreal
UPDATED ON AUG 09, 2004 08:29 PM IST

WTA Tour players have been advised not to boycott the Athens Olympics, but bonus points might be withdrawn if two qualified German players are left out of the games. Larry Scott, CEO of the Tour, met with about 30 players bound for the Olympics at the Rogers Cup tournament to discuss the German Olympic Committee's decision to keep Anca Barna and Marlene Weingartner off its team.

Some players this week suggested an Olympic boycott if the two players were not included.

"I made it clear to the players that missing the Olympics _ not playing in the Olympics _ is not in the interests of women's professional tennis and our sport in general," Scott said on Wednesday.

He said the WTA would consider not awarding Tour points, which count toward players' rankings, if an agreement is not reached before the deadline for entries this week.

Scott said he would continue to lobby the International Olympic Committee and the International Tennis Federation to pressure the Germans to revise their qualifying standards.

"I'm not suggesting that's what the decision will be, but I can't say it's not a possibility," Scott said. "The agreement between the WTA and the ITF allows the WTA to withdraw ranking points if (the Germans) do not send these two players." The WTA had an agreement with the ITF and the IOC to award points. The top 56 in WTA rankings, with a maximum of four per country, were to be admitted to the games.

Barna and Weingartner, Germany's top two women players, were ranked 46th and 52nd, respectively, on the July 15 list of Olympic entrants.

However, Germany set its own very steep standards _ that players must have reached the final of a Tier-1 tournament, such as the Rogers Cup, or the semifinals of a grand slam event to qualify. So far, the Germans have not budged from their position. "Why I'm here is to urge the German Olympic committee to change their rules," said Weingartner, who attended a news conference with Scott. "There's a still a few days left.

"I really want to play for my country, and I want the people to want me to play for them, too. We think this is a blemish on the Olympic Games, this is a step back for tennis at the Olympics." She agreed that players should not boycott.

"The Olympics are a special event and the players should play under any circumstances," she said.

Scott said the Germans were "unfair" because they made an exception for one of their male players, Florian Mayer, after he reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Mayer was ranked 53rd, but had not met German standards.

Elena Dementieva of Russia, who won a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, supported the German players but did not appear ready for a boycott.

"For me, it's the most special event in the world," she said. "I've been dreaming of going to Athens and try to win gold this time.

"I'm sure we'll find a way for them to go there. They did everything by the rules. They deserve to be there."

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