Thursday, August 10, 2000

'Woodies' going out on top

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — The underappreciated art of doubles tennis soon will lose its most historic pairing.

        Mark Woodforde is making his final appearance here with Todd Woodbridge, his partner the past 10 years. The prolific pairing will cease later this year — probably after the two represent Australia in the Sydney Olympics next month — with Woodforde's retirement from tennis.

        They will go out in the same spot they've held for most of a decade: No.1. The “Woodies” lead by 20 percent over the next highest-ranked doubles player, Sandon Stolle.

        “I think it's fitting we'll walk away on top,” Woodforde said. “I'd rather leave that memory in mind for the fans.”

        They are the all-time career doubles team title leaders with 60, including a record 11 Grand Slam titles. They are the only team to have won all four Slams and are 491-129 all-time. Their match Wednesday evening was canceled because of rain and will be played today.

        They have finished as the No.1 team on the Tour four times (1992, '95-97) and became the first team in the 20th Century to win five consecutive Wimbledon titles (1993-97). They're three- time champs in Cincinnati and five-time No.1 seeds.

        Talk about going out on top: They are 44-5 this year, including 6-0 in tournament finals, and have won the last two Grand Slams. They brought a 21-match winning streak to Cincinnati.

        Why retire? Woodforde turns 35 next month, and his wife, Erin, is pregnant with their first child, due in January.

        “And it's partly based on my singles ranking taking a nose dive,” Woodforde said. “This is my first year not being in the (singles) draw of most events.

        “I didn't want to be seen as just a doubles player. When you're relegated to that and still see the singles going on that you want to participate in, it's a little tough.”

        Woodforde, who had ranked in the top 60 in singles from 1992-98, fell to No.128 at the end of 1999 and is now 243rd in the ATP Entry System (used by tournaments to determine player invitations). Woodbridge, 29, is also struggling in singles — 152nd in the Entry System — but will continue playing singles, with plans to find a new doubles partner next year.

        After achieving their goal of tying the record 57 titles shared by the teams of John McEnroe/Peter Fleming and Bob Hewitt/Frew McMillan, the Woodies got No.58 in June at the French Open.

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