James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE – During a Jacobs Creek Promotion whilst being hydrated by a seriously good glass of rosé I had the opportunity to sit down with Mark Woodforde, 12 time grand slam doubles champion, winner of four singles titles and the surprise, and often forgotten, 1996 Australian Open semi-finalist.
Q- Mark, tell us a little behind your Snauwaert racquet with the famous 12×14 pattern as opposed to the traditional 18×20?
I first started using the racquet early on in an effort to control the ball and gain more spin. I was on a trip to the European clay and one of eight in a team using that pattern. My progression was more accelerated than the others and that turned some heads. There were matches where my opponents called over the referee wondering if that string pattern was legal, because of the results I started to have.
I knew it didn’t give me an overwhelming advantage. I know when anyone improves their form or improves their ranking people are always asking why and how are they doing that? People just pointed out the racquet issue because it was different.
The last few years I have been trying to develop a racquet with a string pattern that looks more conventional but still attain the same level of spin.
Q. What would be the advantage for a singles player to play more doubles matches?
I think we would see more natural volleying skills and more varied matchups. Players are just hoping for the easy put away and never learn the confidence in how to play the volley from the service line.
I think it would be great to have the top singles players sign a contract and agree to play doubles at one of the four slams and a few of the 1000 events. On the flip side of that it would be great to see a doubles specialist do the reverse at a singles event.
You look back at the older generations and the players who played both singles and doubles had the all court game, and never looked out of sorts at the net.
Q. Tell us something we don’t know about Todd Woodbridge
(Laughs) Todd fancies himself on the dance floor, on the tennis court and as a chef. There were times he would cook for all of us and he is pretty good. Sometimes you would get back to the apartment and he would be preparing food for all of us, our partners included.
Todd was a lot more strict about food during our playing days. I was the guy at Davis Cup who would throw down four courses, leaving our trainer to scratch his head, although I do have to watch the portions now. Lucky my wife is the master-chef in our house.
Todd has been talking of his personal trainer, who works wonders and how he has been seeing him four nights a week, but I am yet to see the effects and I suspect he could be some sort of phantom. (laughs)
Q.Tell us about your role in Aussie player development
I started working with (Matthew)Ebden and (Marinko) Matosevic. I worked with them for twelve months to help get them out of the Challenger mentality and playing more aggressive tennis.
The last few seasons I’ve been working with the juniors and their transition to seniors.
I’m more opinionated about Australian tennis players staying true to be more attacking all court players. That’s how we have always been and I don’t want to see that erased. I love watching guys like (James) Duckworth, guys who are willing to roll the dice and cause headaches for their opponents.
Mark Woodforde continues to work with Australian junior players, assisting in developing the next wave of Australian champions.