Twins' challenge halted by Czechs

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The woodies are gone, long live...who? The Bryans, perhaps, but not this year. The Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, Wimbledon doubles champions six times out of eight, including last year, are no longer an item following the latter's retirement at the end of last season, when they were denied the crowning glory of an Olympic gold medal in their home country. Since then, Woodbridge has won the Australian Open with his new partner Jonas Bjorkman, but the pair were beaten in the quarter-final at Roland Garros and, as top seeds, went out in the third round at Wimbledon to the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike.

Ranked only 15th, the young Americans yesterday lost their semi-final on Court No 1 to the third seeds, Jiri Novak and David Rikl of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-1. It was a match of high quality, in which Rikl, much the smallest of the quartet, proved the most subtle performer. In the final tomorrow, they will play either the Americans Don Johnson and Jared Palmer or Max Mirnyi and his Belarussian compatriot Vladimir Voltchkov.

The principal interest in the various doubles events this year had centered around whether Martina Navratilova could equal Billie Jean King's record of 20 Wimbledon titles. Navratilova, 44, reached 19 by winning the mixed doubles with Jonathan Stark as long ago as 1995, then returned last year. An eagerly awaited women's third round match, in which she and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario were due to meet the defending champions, the Williams sisters, became a walkover when Serena withdrew, and the senior pair then missed out on a semi-final against the top seeds Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs by losing to Kimberley Po-Messerli and Nathalie Tauziat. So Navratilova, having already gone out of the mixed, partnered by the rather younger Mirnyi, cannot now match Billie Jean this year.

Her best bet would be persuading the world that senior competitions should count. Still going strong is Virginia Wade, partnering Pam Shriver, and Peter McNamara and Paul McNamee, seeded to meet Peter Fleming and Sandy Mayer in the 45-and-over final.

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