Tennis: Wimbledon '93 / Woodbridge secures doubles record

TODD Woodbridge, the world's No 1 men's doubles player, yesterday broke the record previously held by John McEnroe for the most consecutive doubles finals won. His victory, in partnership with his fellow Australian, Mark Woodforde, a former doubles team-mate of McEnroe, took his winning streak to 20.

Woodbridge and Woodforde, the No 1 seeds, defeated Grant Connell, of Canada, and the American, Patrick Galbraith, 7-5, 6-3, 7-6, with skill and understanding for their second Grand Slam doubles triumph together.

Woodbridge's successful run began in Brisbane in September 1990 while McEnroe's began in February 1979 and stretched to 23 tournament victories. 'It's the best tournament of all to beat the record,' Woodbridge said. 'All of us are brought up in Australia to think we have to win Wimbledon. We've worked hard for it.' Woodforde said the title was possibly more significant for him than his partner because 'I'm a few years older than him. Hopefully, this will be the first of a few for me and the first of many for Todd. He's been playing great and has been really mature on the court.'

This was Woodforde's third Grand Slam doubles title to add to those he achieved with McEnroe in the United States Open in 1989 and the Australian Open with Woodbridge in 1992. But he said this was the best moment for him because it was Wimbledon, which meant so much more in historical terms.

Spurred on by shouts of 'C'mon, Aussies', the Woodies won the first two sets by concentrating especially on the weaker serve of Galbraith. But in the third set, the Canadian-American pair found their feet and their confidence, and put greater pressure on their opponents. The set went with serve, Woodbridge and Woodforde having survived several break points, but in the tie- break, the Australians produced bigger shots at the important moments. Woodbridge now holds 21 career doubles titles with six different partners, but his only previous doubles titles on grass were both with Woodforde, at Queen's in 1991 and this year.

After the men's doubles, Gigi Fernandez, of the United States, and her Belarussian partner, Natalia Zvereva, won the women's doubles title by beating Larisa Neiland, of Latvia, and the Czech, Jana Novotna, who was unable to reverse her loss in the women's singles final a few hours earlier.

In a repeat of last year's final, which Fernandez and Zvereva won in straight sets, the victors took the first set smoothly but lost the second in a tense tie-break. In the deciding set, Fernandez and Zvereva compiled two service breaks, one of which their opponents took back. But the defending champions served out the match to win 6-4, 6-7, 6-4.

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