07-13-2006, 07:21 AM
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Woody looks to coaching at home
Chip Le Grand - July 08, 2006
COACHING is a fickle business in any professional sport.
In the AFL, those not sacked are said to be waiting for the day. In the FIFA World Cup, managers have resigned before the sweat has dried on their players. In tennis, some players change coaches more often than their bed sheets. Stay with a player longer than a year and you will probably get written into the will.
When The Weekend Australian caught up with Todd Woodbridge on Thursday, he was a super coach. In the space of four weeks, he had transformed Jonas Bjorkman from ageing tour struggler to Wimbledon semi-finalist. As far as the Swede is concerned, Woodbridge is Guus Hiddink and Neil Craig rolled into one. And Woodbridge only took him on as an afterthought.
By the time you are reading this, Woodbridge might be out of a job. Bjorkman was scheduled to play Roger Federer overnight (AEST).
But Australian tennis owes a debt of gratitude to Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson, the other Swede Woodbridge hoped to guide deep into this tournament.
Woodbridge had never fancied himself as a coach. Since he stopped playing he has spent more time in television and radio studios than booking practice sessions. But after his role in Bjorkman's wonderful Wimbledon, Woodbridge has got the bug.
"It wasn't a line of work I thought I would be going into," Woodbridge said. "I prefer to be doing media and TV and commentary work where I can try to get people at home to understand the game a bit better. So it is a bit of a surprise.
"I have always enjoyed the technical aspects and the tactical aspects. What I didn't realise is that I am also able to communicate that and get the message across.
"It gives me the option. Really, in the last 12 months my goal has been to give myself as many options as possible and see which ones I like and which ones I am better at. This one is proving to be a good one."
The benefit for Australian tennis is that Woodbridge has a young family and is unlikely to be tempted by the prospect of rejoining the tour as a full-time coach. A better fit would be a coaching role at home, perhaps in junior development.
"I am not jumping to anything at home yet, but I have always said since I stopped playing that I plan to give back," he said. "If the right offer came through you would have to contemplate it and think hard about it. If it was the right person and the right move and the right situation for me, you would think about it."
The first man in the queue for Woodbridge's services will be Bjorkman.
With the ranking points he gets from this tournament, Bjorkman will gain automatic entry to main draws throughout the US hardcourt season. Having made his only other Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open, he will also fancy his chances at Flushing Meadows.
Woodbridge is uncertain whether the relationship with Bjorkman and Johansson will continue but he has enjoyed working with his old doubles partner and watching his progress at Wimbledon.
"I know his game inside out because I played with him for four years and I knew what he wasn't doing that he does well," he said.
"It was just a matter of trying to get him in a position where he could give his best shot to win a couple of matches."