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Old 11-10-2003, 04:52 AM   #1
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Default Experience carries day in the Masters doubles

Experience carries day in the Masters doubles
By MEGAN MANFULL
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
Todd Woodbridge thought he had experienced every possible way to win -- and lose -- the Tennis Masters Cup.

But in his 10th appearance, the two-time doubles champion was thrown a twist when he and teammate Jonas Bjorkman fell in their opening match Saturday.

Woodbridge never had lost in the first match of the round-robin portion of the event. But all of his experiences were hardly for naught. He and Bjorkman regrouped Sunday, and kept their hopes alive for a berth in the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Martin Damm and Cyril Suk at Westside Tennis Club.

"I've been in this tournament before where I won two matches and lost the third and didn't make the semis," Woodbridge said. "So I think I've just about experienced all the ways to kind of win it and mess it up. But I've never done it where I lost the first match before. So that's something I might be able to achieve this time."

After three years together and 120 victories, Woodbridge and Bjorkman like the challenge ahead of them. But they are not the only ones banking on past successes to help get them through the round-robin competition.

Experience won out during the second day of the doubles competition. Only four teams in the field have won 100 career matches and three of those teams captured victories Sunday.

Damm and Suk, who have a 100-58 record, were the only tandem with such success to falter. They suffered their second loss in two days.

Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor have won the most titles (23) and matches (269) together than any other team in this year's field. They captured their first victory Sunday by defeating Wayne Arthurs and Paul Hanley 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6).

Knowles and Nestor are hoping for a return trip to the final, which they last reached in 1998 but fell short of the title.

"It's better to be 1-0 instead of 0-1, especially after a great match like that," Knowles said. "But there's plenty of work to be done."

The top-ranked team of Bob and Mike Bryan, who have won 188 matches together, captured their second victory in as many days with a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 victory over Australian Open champions Michael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro.

"All these teams have a lot of matches together, but I think there is an extra little bit of magic we have that others, who haven't played together so long, don't," Mike Bryan said. "I think experience really helps, like when we got that early break in the third, we have the experience now to go 110 percent and be extra stingy, not give up any extra points and close out matches."

Even though the Bryans are the only doubles team in the Red Group with a 2-0 record, they are not guaranteed a spot in the semifinals. The tandem must face U.S. Open and Wimbledon champions Woodbridge and Bjorkman, who lead the series between the teams 4-1, including two victories this year.

Both teams will get a day off today, and face each other Tuesday in a match that will help determine the team who finishes the year with the No. 1 ranking.

"It comes down to the next match really," Woodbridge said. "We've got to win. I always feel that if we play our best tennis and we're on, we can beat any team out there. If we can do that, then we can still win the tournament. I don't feel we're out of the tournament. But we took a step back Saturday. But that's the beauty of the round robin."

Only two doubles matches will be played today as the singles competition kicks off. Roger Federer and Andre Agassi will play at 7 p.m. in the day's marquee matchup.

Last edited by Deboogle!. : 11-10-2003 at 04:55 AM.
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