Twenty-seven of top 30 men on list
LONDON -- Top-ranked Roger Federer and No. 2 Andy Roddick head the list of 27 of the leading 30 men's players who will compete in tennis at the Athens Olympics.
Justine Henin-Hardenne leads the women's entry list, which features seven of the top 10 in the rankings, including Venus and Serena Williams.
"This is the best field we have had for tennis in the Olympic Games," International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti said Thursday.
Tennis returned as a full medal sport in 1988.
"It took a few years for the players and the fans to understand what an honor and a privilege it is to compete for your country at the Olympic Games but the response that we have received shows that the Olympics is now one of the most important events in tennis," Bitti said.
The Athens tournament, Aug. 15-22, will have 23 of the top 30 women in the rankings.
Federer will be Switzerland's sole entry in men's singles and will play doubles with Yves Allegro. He is currently in the Wimbledon semifinals after winning the tournament last year.
Roddick's U.S. teammates are Taylor Dent, Vince Spadea, Mardy Fish and the doubles pair of twins Bob and Mike Bryan. Roddick and Fish will also play doubles.
Argentina will field a strong singles contingent with French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, No. 3 Guillermo Coria, No. 4 David Nalbandian and No. 18 Juan Ignacio Chela.
Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya, Britain's Tim Henman and Germany's Rainer Schuettler are also in the singles draw.
Notable absences are former No. 1s and Grand Slam tournament champions Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt.
Venus Williams returns to defend her singles gold medal and will partner sister Serena to defend their doubles title. Jennifer Capriati, who won gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and Chanda Rubin are also in the singles draw.
Martina Navratilova, who last week became the oldest woman since 1922 to win a singles match at Wimbledon, will make her Olympic debut at 47, partnering Lisa Raymond in the doubles.
Henin-Hardenne will be Belgium's only competitor after Kim Clijsters withdrew because of a sponsorship dispute. French Open champion Anastasia Myskina heads the Russian squad, which also includes 2000 silver medalist Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova.
Amelie Mauresmo heads France's team, along with Mary Pierce, Sandrine Testud and Nathalie Dechy.
Fifty-three countries will compete in Athens, one more than Sydney.
Players will receive ATP and WTA ranking points for entering the Olympic tennis tournament.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press