Sunday, August 13, 2000

'Woodies' reach yet another doubles final

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
        MASON — In the final year of his partnership with Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde downplays the winning. The friendship and trust is much more significant.

        “Our confidence is back,” Woodforde said. “We enjoy being back with each other.

        “You value the partnership a lot more when you bounce back from where people doubt you. We had even doubted ourselves.”

        The “Woodies,” who have won a record 60 doubles titles, will play for the Tennis Masters Series Cincinnati title today against Rick Leach and Ellis Ferreira, who beat Daniel Nestor/Sebastien Lareau 6-4, 6-4.

        The Woodies, seeded first and ranked No. 1 in the world, beat Jiri Novak and David Rikl 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals Saturday. They have won 25 matches and four tournaments in a row, the best such run in their 10-year career, and are 7-0 in tournament finals this year.

        Last year, though, there was doubt. They went nearly a year without winning an event. Though they had played Davis Cup doubles together for Australia for years, Woodbridge was replaced with Sandon Stolle until the Davis Cup final.

        “There was a point where we weren't up to our standard, and neither of us was happy on the court,” Woodbridge said.

        Said Woodforde: “Teams were wondering, "Are the Woodies finished?' ”

        No. In the Davis Cup final last December against France, they trailed Olivier Delaitre and Fabrice Santoro 6-2, 5-2 and faced a set point. But they rallied to win, and helped the Aussies clinch their first Davis Cup crown since 1986.

        “From that match on, we've played great since,” Woodbridge said.

        The partnership will soon cease. Woodforde, 35, is re tiring after the Olympics; Woodbridge, 29, will have to find a new partner.

        They're 48-5 this year. They're playing so well, fans and friends are begging them not to stop.

        “It's an absolutely perfect way to go out,” Woodbridge said. “We're not going to maintain this level forever, so it's great to wrap up our career while we're on top.”

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- 'Woodies' reach yet another doubles final