Woodruff benefits from his hard work

Sunday 03 August 1997 23:02

The unseeded Chris Woodruff climaxed a dream week of tennis yesterday by beating a sixth successive seed to win first career title at the Canadian Open. The American, ranked No 57 in the world, scored a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory in the final over the sixth seed and French Open champion, Gustavo Kuerten.

The former US collegiate champion saved a match point in his opening contest against the 16th seed, Jan Siemerink, and never looked back. Following that close call, he knocked out the second seed, Goran Ivanisevic, seventh- seeded Mark Philippoussis and fourth-seeded Yevgeny Kafelnikov, before finishing off with Kuerten.

The 20-year-old Kuerten, who came to prominence with his stunning run to the French Open title this year, had been sensational in demolishing the top seed, Michael Chang, 6-3, 6-1, in Saturday's semi-final, but Woodruff used aggressive tactics and a much-improved serve to keep the colourful Brazilian at bay.

"I've really been working on my serve, hitting lots of bucketfuls of balls at home and it's really paid off at this tournament," said Woodruff, who hit 18 aces, many at critical times in the match.

The packed stands were dotted with Brazilian flags and enthusiastic Kuerten supporters and Woodruff appeared a bit unsettled early in only his third career final as he double-faulted to lose his serve. His confidence gradually grew and he began to dominate the rallies.

"I saw Michael Chang playing him and I thought he was a little passive," Woodruff said. "I wanted to step inside the baseline and force the issue."

Woodruff was successful at his game plan, controlling the pace by hitting his groundstroke early and returning serve with authority. Nevertheless, he again went down a service break in the second set and this time failed to get it back as Kuerten levelled the match, forcing a third set.

The American controlled the key points in the final set, and this time it was Woodruff who claimed the critical early service break and later finished off the match by belting down his 18th ace.

n Rain halted the Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe semi-final match in the third set at The Challenge tournament for over-35 players in Colorado Springs. Borg was ahead, 3-6, 6-3, 1-0. The winner will meet Jimmy Connors in the final after the American defeated Yannick Noah in the other semi-final 6-7, 7-5, 6-1. The champion will receive $150,000 (pounds 100,000)

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