Photo: Tommy HindleyBarcelona 1992 - Marc Rosset (SUI)
The gold medal match in the men’s singles at Barcelona ’92 might not have featured any of the marquee players who entered the event, yet it remains one of the greatest finals the competition has ever seen.
Switzerland’s Marc Rosset and Spain’s Jordi Arrese had both coped with the heat and the pressure of playing in front of a vocal crowd in Barcelona to earn their place in the men’s singles showpiece.
Rosset, in particular, had overcome No. 1 Jim Courier, clay court specialist Emilio Sanchez and fervent patriot Goran Ivanisevic in the three rounds prior to the final, while home hope Arrese had enjoyed a comparatively easy route to the last two.
But the Spaniard, who had remarkably sacrificed four-and-a-half months of the regular season to train for eight hours a day so that he would be in the best shape possible for Barcelona, knew he would have to contend with the weight of expectation that came from the 7,000-strong home fans as well as stomach problems that had plagued him throughout the event.
Arrese had paid regular visits to a local church, where he lit candles prior to his matches, and the ritual appeared to be working until he came up against the determination of Rosset in the gold medal match at 2pm on August 8 1992.
The Swiss took control of the match from the outset and moved into a two-sets-to-love lead before the heat of the Spanish summer took its toll. Out of nowhere it looked as though Arrese’s diligent preparation for the Olympic Tennis Event on home soil was going to pay dividends.
Buoyed by the home crowd, the Spaniard battled back to level the score at two-sets-all and took the gruelling encounter into a decisive fifth set.
Rosset wasn’t done however. The Swiss, who afterwards revealed he came desperately close to defaulting due to exhaustion, dug deep and took a 4-2 lead in the final set. Serving to go 5-2 up, however, Rosset double-faulted on break point, much to the delight of the home fans and let Arrese back in.
Both players continued to hold serve until Rosset eventually broke with a forehand winner down the line and with it took home the gold medal with a fantastic 76(2) 64 36 46 86 victory after just over five hours of play.
Looking back on that memorable day, there is one moment that sticks in Rosset’s mind and that is the medal ceremony.
“When you’re on the podium they say in French, because French is one of the Olympic languages, they say Olympic champion and they mention your name and then you have the music, the hymn, the flag. It’s huge, but you don’t realise that much,” recalled Rosset.
“OK, I’m Olympic champion, but as a tennis player, for me 20 years ago to win the 100 metres in track and field this is something for the Olympics but tennis it was maybe not in the mind of the tennis player in that it was not a priority in the way that it came to be with Agassi, with Nadal, with all those guys who said 'OK I want to get the Olympic medal' so it became something big for the tennis players right now.
“The feeling was special because I was the only medal for the whole country; I was lucky in that way that I was the only one – it was a nice feeling when I came back home.”