Three medals, two silver (Jordi Arrese and the women’s doubles formed by Arantxa Sánchez Vicario y Conchita Martinez) and a bronze (also for Arantxa) signed Spanish tennis in the Barcelona’92 Games. The big surprise was that of Arrese, who touched glory in the individual tournamentafter an agonizing five-hour match against another unpredictable finalist, the Swiss Marc Rosset. The biggest disappointment was for what was considered the best Spanish athlete in history in that decade, who was expected in the other individual final and had to settle for third place on the podium, although Arantxa was then the first to win. two metals in the same Olympic event.
The youngest of the Vicarios had won the first of her three titles three years earlier. Roland Garros and aimed at individual gold or silver in their land. And more, in a women’s tournament without Monica Seles, Gabriela Sabatini in Martina Navratilova. However, the young American Jennifer Capriati crossed her path and left her out of the fight for the title, to later win the crown against Steffi Graf (silver). Arantxa thus had to share third place in the box with another North American, Mary Joe Fernandezprecisely the executioner of the Catalan and Conchita in the doubles final.
In any case, there were two medals for Arantxa. Not the color she would have liked, but of value for the Barcelona player, whom Jordi Arrese came to eclipse, a tireless warrior who was on the verge of falling off the team and, against all odds and after some very tough matches, to five sets, He stood in the final against Rosset, who would then play the match of his life to leave the Spaniard without the gold. Carlos Costawho had been one of those selected for the Games, insisted that the Olympic place had been won by the future Olympic runner-up, he resigned from the tournament and Jordi Arrese was thus able to live and make the fans experience one of the most beautiful stories of Barcelona ’92.
With the absences in the Games Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi y John McEnroe and, benefited by the elimination of several seeds (Boris Becker y Stefan Edberg, among others), the controversial Arrese earned the right to fight for gold and his final against Rosset was a true display of courage from the Spaniard. Arrese lost the first two sets against an opponent with a very powerful serve, but he overcame to equalize the duel and took the battle to the limit, ending up losing 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, 3-6, 4 -6 and 8-6. Until then he had only won four individual titles of the ATP, three of them on clay, and before the Games he enjoyed in his city he was only number 30 in the world ranking. So, even without the most precious metal, he became one of the big names of Barcelona’92 and won the affection of the entire country.
«I think this medal is everyone’s medal. From Carlos Costa, who proved to be a great friend; of all those Spanish players who do not have the facilities of a few; from the public, who has supported and lifted me up in difficult times. It is a medal that shows that with work and honesty you can achieve everything,” proclaimed Arrese. An unforgettable detail from the Catalan tennis player, for whom the applause and final ovation that the fans gave him at the Vall d’Hebron Tennis Center would also be memorable. Barcelona, doubly proud, felt as its own that money that Arrese gave, even symbolically, with complete generosity to the city, to his colleagues, and to an entire nation.
Arantxa was also called to the final in the female category, but did not reach the final match, because after beating Conchita Martínez in the quarterfinals, she met the girl Capriati (16) in one of the semifinals and the favorite fell by 6 -3, 3-6 and 6-1. The bronze was worth very little and the Spaniard, devastated, then received a hard blow, although the day after she would have another opportunity in the doubles with Conchita and they would secure the silver, a mandatory medal, by overwhelming their Australian rivals. In the final they lost to Mary Joe y Gigi Fernandez (7-5, 2-6 and 6-2), but in this case they did end up with a smile on their faces after feeling liberated.