Sunday, August 8, 2004

Woodbridge building another dynasty

On top with Bjorkman after successful 'Woodies' run

By Neil Schmidt
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - Todd Woodbridge knew his new doubles partnership would be judged against the gold standard: his old one.

When Mark Woodforde, the other half of the "Woodies" team, retired in late 2000, having paired with Woodbridge to become the most successful tandem in Open Era history, Woodbridge recruited Jonas Bjorkman to be his partner. Expectations couldn't have been higher.

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Woodbridge building another dynasty

Yet they have found a way to fulfill them, winning five Grand Slam titles in 3 1/2 years and currently ranking No. 1 in the world.

Fresh from their third consecutive Wimbledon title, they have rolled through the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, beating Jared Palmer and Pavel Vizner 6-3, 6-4 in a semifinal Saturday. In today's 1 p.m. final they will play the winner of Saturday's late semifinal that matched Daniel Knowles and Mark Nestor against Max Mirnyi and Sargis Sargsian.

"I'm proud of us winning a triple at Wimbledon," Woodbridge said. "For us to accomplish that, we've stamped our mark as our individual team as well. We're sort of separating ourselves as another team to be talked about."

Woodbridge and Bjorkman are on a 13-match winning streak. They are 147-46 together, including 30-10 this year, and have 13 titles as a team.

Woodbridge, a 33-year-old Australian, had teamed with countryman Woodforde to win 508 matches, 61 titles (a record for one pairing) and 11 Grand Slams, the most in the Open Era.

With Bjorkman, he has filled the rest of the record book. Woodbridge has the most doubles titles in the Open Era, 81, and his ninth Wimbledon title last month set a record.

Woodbridge has 16 Grand Slam titles. Bjorkman, a 32-year-old Swede, has won seven Slams.

"I found a niche I excelled in," Woodbridge said of doubles. "When I hang up my racket, I can be considered one of the great doubles players in tennis, and that's something I'm very proud of."

Bjorkman's legacy will be in excelling both at singles and doubles. He held the No. 4 singles ranking in 1997. John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg and Yevgeny Kafelnikov are among the few other players of this generation who have achieved top-5 rankings in singles and doubles.

FRIENDLY FIRE: American Andy Roddick entered his match Saturday with Andre Agassi having won 18 of his last 19 matches against countrymen, dating to April 2003.

Before losing Saturday, Roddick last lost to Vince Spadea at Scottsdale in March.



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