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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

Team Fernandez Repeats in Doubles

Tennis: Gigi and Mary Joe defend their title by defeating Novotna and Sukova for the gold medal.

August 04, 1996|BILL DWYRE | TIMES SPORTS EDITOR

ATLANTA — The Fernandez women of the U.S. tennis team, not family but playing like it, won their second consecutive Olympic gold medal in doubles Saturday.

Gigi and Mary Joe, similar both in name and doubles skills, beat Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova of the Czech Republic, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4. The match ended, fittingly, with doubles veteran Gigi Fernandez serving, bending low for a tough half-volley and then putting away the match point with a forehand volley.

"Winning it again is tougher," said Gigi, who flopped on her back on the red clay and kicked with joy like a 10-year-old when she and Mary Joe won their gold medal in Barcelona in '92. "The potential for choking is much bigger when you are defending, so this is very sweet."

Mary Joe Fernandez was not even on the original U.S. Olympic team selected for the Atlanta Games. But after much campaigning on the part of U.S. Tennis and Coach Billie Jean King--plus the offer of good friend and American player Lindsay Davenport to give up her spot in doubles to make room for Mary Joe--she was added to the team.

"This is so strange," Mary Joe said, "because I wasn't even on the team to begin with. Then to win it, if somebody had told me we'd come back here and win this again, I'd have said I don't think so--it's just hard to believe."

The gold medal by the Fernandez pair meant that, since tennis returned to the Olympics as a medal sport in Seoul in 1988, the U.S. has won all three women's doubles titles. In Korea, Pam Shriver and Zina Garrison took the final by outlasting the same Novotna-Sukova pair that lost to Gigi and Mary Joe Fernandez here Saturday.

The women's gold also meant that the U.S. won three of the four gold medals here, and probably can lay partial claim to the fourth.

Davenport and Andre Agassi won singles golds, and Gigi and Mary Joe Fernandez doubles. Men's doubles went to Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. Australian though they may be, Woodbridge's home is in Orlando, Fla., and Woodforde's in Rancho Mirage.

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