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Monday, June 30, 2008 - Page updated at 09:56 AM

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Massu granted special place in Olympic tennis

Nicolas Massu of Chile, who won gold medals in singles and doubles at the 2004 Olympics, was among 12 players given special places Monday in singles at the 2008 event at Beijing.

AP Sports Writer

WIMBLEDON, England —

Nicolas Massu of Chile, who won gold medals in singles and doubles at the 2004 Olympics, was among 12 players given special places Monday in singles at the 2008 event at Beijing.

The places are awarded by the International Tennis Federation to players who didn't meet requirements for direct acceptance, such as Massu, whose ranking of 131st was too low.

"I'm very happy," Massu said. "I'm always glad to represent my country. Playing for Chile is always a top priority for me, especially because of the great memories I have from four years ago."

Massu won the doubles gold with Fernando Gonzalez, who will also play in Beijing.

Others granted special places in men's singles were Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden, Max Mirnyi of Belarus, Kevin Anderson of South Africa, Kei Nishikori of Japan and Peng Sun of China.

Given special places in women's singles were Alicia Molik of Australia, Maria Koryttseva of Ukraine, Chan Yung-jan of Taiwan, Ayumi Morita of Japan, Nuria Llagostera-Vives of Spain and Selima Sfar of Tunisia.

"Each of the players who has been awarded an ITF place brings special qualities to the field," ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said. "Some of the players are young competitors from underrepresented parts of the world, while others are former medalists or long-standing participants in their country's Davis Cup and Fed Cup efforts."

Molik won a bronze medal in singles four years ago.

"This is probably the best news I've had since 2004," she said. "I have played in two Olympics, and I have to say they're the absolute highlight of my career."

The 36-year-old Bjorkman, who said last week he'll retire in October, competed at the Olympics in singles and doubles in both 1996 and 2004.

"It's my dream to end my career with an Olympic medal for Sweden," Bjorkman said.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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