Tennis / Wimbledon '94: A player's diary: My dream Wimbledon: Mark Woodforde, the doubles specialist, tells how his fortnight ended in triumph

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The Independent Online
WEEK ONE - MONDAY: Returning to Wimbledon was very special for me. Being Australian, you're brought up to understand Wimbledon, that whatever you do there, you will be remembered for. It's definitely more important than the Australian Open; there's a special feeling to the place and even more so for me this time as I won two titles last year: the doubles with Todd Woodbridge and the mixed with Martina Navratilova.

The build-up to the tournament has gone quite well, and there's a great camaraderie between the Australians for the big events. We had a barbecue at John Newcombe's place on Saturday night, which has become an annual event, and the juniors, us, and all the old guys - Fred Stolle, Tony Roche and Rod Laver - are invited.

I had my first singles match today and came through in straight sets against Matsuoka. A good start.

TUESDAY: I didn't play today though I came down to practise and went into the locker-room which is so busy in the first few days. It thins out gradually and if you're one of the last guys left in at the end of the fortnight, you're a happy man. The Australians always congregate in one corner and it's great when there's a big match on and one of the top players is having a hard time. Everyone comes in, the two TVs are whipped on, and there are shouts of advice - 'Is he going to choke?' and that sort of thing.

Brad Gilbert is one of the main characters. He's a funny guy, keeping everyone entertained with constant stories. Of the major seeds, Stefan Edberg is the most accessible; he's not afraid to come and give you some advice on who you're playing. But everyone comes in and chats; Stich does - he was knocked out today - and Boris is often in there. Andre Agassi is the only one who just whips in and whips out; I guess that's the way he believes he'll be at his best.

WEDNESDAY: Todd and I made the first defence of our doubles today and came through OK. We have taken a bit of a beating recently, which is why we're only fifth seeds, and people have realised that we're suffering, so we're trying to resurrect ourselves. I'm more or less captain of the team - I'll control where to serve to and that - probably because I'm a bit older than Todd, and at the moment he's also having a tough time with his singles. His confidence isn't that high so I've got to help him out as much as I can. This puts a bit more pressure on me, but that's what a doubles partnership is all about.

THURSDAY: Played my second- round singles against Daniel Vacek. I warmed up with Stefan Edberg in the morning and we were both hitting really well. He seemed fine before his game, I felt fine before mine. We met some time later and we were both out of the competition. I couldn't believe it. End of story.

FRIDAY: After yesterday, it was pretty hard to come back out today and play doubles again. The thing about doubles is that you have someone you can lean on; Todd kept me going today and we came through in straight sets again. It's been nice to play our way into form and it puts pressure on the other guys when we show that we're playing well.

The locker-room had gone a little quiet - more and more people are talking about what flight they're on. And it's funny: usually when you see a locker open it's full of rackets, but after a few days you start to see lockers open but with nothing in them and you know that that person's cleared out. But now the veterans have arrived and the place has picked up, especially with Ilie Nastase in there, always wise-

cracking and treading on a few toes in the process. I enjoy it when Ken Rosewall's around: he just comes in, changes, and then tries to arrange someone to practise with; and he uses the same locker he always had. It's as if nothing has changed at all.

SATURDAY: Came though my first- round mixed doubles with Meredith McGrath without much of a problem. It would have been nice to defend the mixed title with Martina, but she opted out. She was a very relaxed partner last year and when we got to the final, I think she could sense that I was a little nervous and she just took over. She had a powerful aura about her which I also felt with John McEnroe. The first time I played with him I was shitting my pants, but when I missed my first easy shot he just said 'No problem. Relax.'

Meredith is obviously not quite Martina, but she's very handy. I don't like playing with girls who are afraid of getting hit by guys and Meredith is the opposite: she invites them to hit her]

WEEK TWO - MONDAY: Yesterday was the rest day and we did some training with the other Australians to keep us in trim for today's doubles. The match, against Cannon and Macpherson, wasn't as easy as the 3- 1 scoreline suggests. We were playing on Court 5, and it was very hard to concentrate out there with the fans screaming out for Agassi on Centre Court; whatever was happening we could hear. When we came off, I had to go out and play a mixed match when all I wanted to do was sit down and rest. But I've a good partner and she was able to help me out.

TUESDAY: Winning that five-setter today was really a huge hurdle. Eltingh and Haarhuis are the third seeds, a great team, they've got big serves, good returns. It was a big test; we hadn't beaten any of the top teams for a while and it'll show them that we're back on track. And as we've beaten everyone that's left in the tournament, we're feeling confident. Connell and Galbraith, the second seeds who we beat in last year's final, are looking good in the bottom part of the draw; we'll probably get Ferreira and Stich in our semi which certainly won't be easy.

We had our share of screaming girls today - or rather Todd did, he's the young, good-looking one of the partnership] The first time I played against him, there were young girls screaming like mad for him and I came off thinking, 'Maybe I should play with this guy.' It's one thing that really irks me: fans going off their nuts unfairly. Though, that said, English crowds are the best you get tennis-wise. And with the girls now going bananas on my side, I must admit it does lift the ego]

I was hoping to go to the theatre tonight, but the match finished too late; I haven't had the chance to go out once yet. So it was back, as usual, to the flat in Wimbledon where I'm staying with my girl and with my trainer and his girl. The girls have been cooking which is nice to get back to. Todd and his girl are staying in the flat above and Liz Smylie and her husband and daughter are below.

WEDNESDAY: Came through another mixed match with Meredith which puts us in the quarter-finals. I wasn't putting too much pressure on myself but obviously I'm still hoping to win the mixed even though the men's doubles is my priority.

THURSDAY: Didn't have a match today so I came out to practise with Todd for an hour. We both hit extremely well, so splendidly we were wishing the semi-final was today.

Last year a bird shat on Todd's head and for some reason he thought that was a good omen. Well today, I was walking home and a bird shat on me] I couldn't believe it. I told Todd and he was overjoyed.

FRIDAY: Won the semi-final. Extremely happy. We went out there and did the job, beating Ferreira and Stich in straight sets. We kept our heads the whole way through and Todd played especially well. It's brilliant, we're back in the final again. Last year was incredible, but this time round, having gone through that slump, to be there again is a fantastic feeling - it's what Todd and I are playing for.

Meredith and I then had a mixed quarter-final to play which was good to use as a bit of a warm-down and to relax a bit. We went out, though, to Byron Black and Pam Shriver, 7-5 in the third set. A shame, but the doubles is the priority and I'll have to focus on that now.

It's Connell and Galbraith in the final again, and I'm sure they want to make amends for last year. They are a very talented team but I think we have a bit more variety in our game, and they're not huge servers so if we can return adequately enough, we can put a lot of pressure on them.

I'll take it easy tonight and make sure that I'm ready to fire tomorrow. Last year I was pretty nervous and I was nervous for today's semi. I guess I'm on the eve of one of the biggest days of my tennis life - but that thought scares the life out of me.

SATURDAY: I didn't sleep that well last night and then we didn't warm up particularly well this morning, but when we got out there it just clicked, it was as if we had saved ourselves for the final run at the tape. I felt great out there, Todd had a terrific game, we won 7-6, 6-3, 6-1.

It's going to take some time to sink in, but I can now have a great few weeks while it does. In the meantime, I'm off to celebrate. . .

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