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September 9, 2000
Indian duo could spoil Woodies' partyScott McDonald
India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi could crash the going-away party planned for Australia's famed "Woodies" in men's tennis doubles at the Sydney Olympics. Paes and Bhupathi, who dominated men's doubles in 1999, have paired up again after splitting last year over personal and coaching differences.
The split helped allow Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, the defending Olympic gold medallists, to climb back to the top in men's doubles and raised expectations of a strong home country showing in what is expected to be the Woodies' last tournament as a pair.
Until Paes and Bhupathi clicked in 1999, winning the French and Wimbledon crowns and finishing runners-up in the Australian and U.S. Opens, Woodbridge and Woodforde had dominated men's doubles.
But Indian chef de mission Ashok Mattoo said on Saturday he expected Paes and Bhupathi to pose a threat again to the Woodies, who took their Grand Slam title record to 11 this year with wins at the French Open and Wimbledon.
"We have a lot of expectations of the men's doubles team," Mattoo said.
The last time the Indians and Australians played each other was in the semifinals of the World Doubles Championships last November when Bhupathi and Paes edged the Australians after being down a set and trailing 1-2 in the second.
The Indians lost to Sebastien Lareau of Canada and American Alex O'Brien in the final, the last time they played together before joining forces again just before this year's U.S. Open.
A rusty Paes and Bhupathi were upset in the first round in New York and intended to play in a tournament in Tashkent as a warmup for the Olympics, but Mattoo said they had decided against that.
"They will be coming directly here on about September 13," he said. The Olympic tennis tournament runs from September 19 to September 28.
The Woodies have said the Olympics would be their last tournament together since Woodforde is retiring, although they may represent Australia in the Davis Cup final in Spain in December. They are the most successful doubles pair in history.
Mattoo said one concern for India would be the seeding for the tournament.
Because Paes and Bhupathi have been together again only for a short time since their split, their ranking has slipped so they may face tougher pairings in the early rounds.
But Mattoo was not worried about the pair's lack of recent match practice together, because they know each other well, having been partners for five years before their split.
"We are confident they will do well together," he said.
Woodbridge is ranked first in doubles in the world followed by his partner, while Bhupathi is now 31. Paes is not ranked in the top 50.
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