Fathers hope for doubles delight

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A pair of fathers today look to defend their Wimbledon title as the men's and women's doubles events got back on schedule.

Todd Woodbridge, who now has two children, and Jonas Bjorkman, who became a father in January, go for their second Wimbledon title together when they take on the top seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi. Victory would give Woodbridge his ninth Wimbledon doubles title, and his 76th men's doubles title in all.

When the pair won the tournament in Halle three weeks ago, their first title since Wimbledon last year, Woodbridge said: "We've had a bit of a drought, but maybe now the floodgates will open and we'll have a run of titles." So far he has been proved right, and his 76th title will take him to within one of John McEnroe's career tally of 77 and two short of Tom Okker's doubles record of 78.

Had Bjorkman not missed January's Australian Open on paternity leave, the defending champions would probably have been seeded higher than fourth.

For much of yesterday's quick-fire semi-final over the unseeded Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, they were a class better, and only the collapse of Woodbridge's serve in the 10th game of the second set allowed the Israelis to take it to four, Bjorkman and Woodbridge winning 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Bhupathi and Mirnyi had a much tougher match against Leander Paes and David Rikl, before winning 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-3. Bhupathi and Paes won the title in 1999, but two years ago broke up acrimoniously.

Today's women's doubles final will feature the top two seeds. Last year's runners-up and world champions, Virginia Ruano-Pascual and Paola Suarez, overcame the Russians Elena Dementieva and Lina Krasnoroutskaya 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, while the French Open champions Kim Clijsters and Ai Sugiyama played a match and a half. They finished off their quarter-final against Svetlana Kuznetsova and Martina Navratilova, winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, and then took a highly entertaining semi-final against the fourth seeds Lindsay Davenport and Lisa Raymond 6-1, 0-6, 6-4.

The final will have no shortage of smiles. Both pairs are expressive on court and Suarez said after she and Ruano-Pascual were crowned 2002 world champions: "Having fun on court is part of our tactics."

The prospect of central and eastern Europe dominating the future gathered pace via the junior events, with four of the eight semi-finalists coming from the emerging democracies.

Romania could monopolise the boys' singles final after Floria Mergea put out the top seed Tomas Berdych, of the Czech Republic, on two tie-breaks, and Horia Tecau beat the American Brendan Evans 6-4, 6-7, 6-1 in the quarter-finals.

In the girls' singles, Jarmila Gajdosova, of Slovakia, faces Kirsten Flipkens, of Belgium, in today's semi-finals, while the Russian Anna Tchakvetadze faces Emma Laine of Finland.

There was one British victory, with Andrew Murray and Tom Rushby reaching the boys' doubles semi-finals by beating Luis Flores and Pablo Figueroa 6-2, 6-3.