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Twice as nice

Leach, Ferreira triumph in five-set, 261-minute final

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Posted: Saturday January 29, 2000 12:00 AM

  Rick Leach and Ellis Ferreira Rick Leach (left) and Ellis Ferreira remained cool under pressure throughout the 261-minute match. AP

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Rick Leach won his third Australian Open doubles title more than a decade after winning his second, combining Saturday with Ellis Ferreira to edge Andrew Kratzmann and Wayne Black in a grueling five set final.

Leach, who teamed with Jim Pugh to win successive doubles titles Down Under in 1988 and '89, claimed his fifth Grand Slam doubles title while his South African partner collected his first with the 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 18-16 triumph.

The 35-year-old American survived two break points at 9-9 but then all the pressure was on Kratzmnn of Australia and Black of Zimbabwe, both playing in their first Grand Slam final.

Kratzmann survived a match point to level at 13-13 and staved off two more to level again at 15-15.

The fifth set went on serve for 121 minutes until Kratzmann's luck run out at 17-16, when he let a 40-15 advantage slip and then skewed a backhand wide on the fourth match point.

"I didn't really feel the pressure," said Kratzmann. "I just ha a good time. I served a couple of double faults but that was more from tiredness, not pressure.

"No matter what the outcome, it's just great to be a part of a match like that."

Leach said he was more emotional Saturday than he'd ever been because the win was so unexpected.

"When you're 35 and you're probably not playing your best tennis, you're not supposed to win Grand Slams," he said. "It was an honor to win Wimbledon and be part of a winning avis Cup team ... this rates up there."

"Last December I talked to my wife about quitting tennis, I'm glad she talked me out of it. I was ready to call it quits, I hought I'd achieved everything I could in a career but she told me I'd be crazy to retire right now."

The ability to endure long matches must have been passed down to Rick Leach by his father.

Dick Leach and Dick Dell shared the all-time record for the most number of games played in a doubles set when they teamed in 1967 to defeat Len Schloss and Tom Mozur 3-6, 49-47, 22-20 at Newport Rhode Island.

Leach said his father's record was in the Guinness Book of World Records.

"He taught me everything I know," he said. "It must be in the genes."

Describing himself as a traditionalist, Leach said he'd opposed the introduction of tiebreaks in the fifth set at Grand Slams.

The current format "is the best way to do it," he said. "It's not fun to play, but it must be fun to watch."

Playing in red-and-white Hawaiian-style shorts more synonymous with beach volleyball courts than tennis arenas, Leach and Ferreira remained cool under pressure throughout the 261-minute match.

The No. 5 seeds won the opening set when Black sent a backhand return wide on set point.

Kratzmann and Black, seeded No. 8, broke Ferreira's serve to go 3-1 in the second and held on until the Australian closed out, winning his serve to love.

Leach and Ferreira regained control early in the third, breaking Kratzmann's opening serve for a 2-0 lead and then saving two break back chances to regain a one-set advantage.

In almost a repeat of the second, Kratzmann and Black hit back to win the fourth, breaking Ferreira's serve to lead 3-1 and holding to level the match at two sets apiece.

Leach and Ferreira advanced to the final after fighting back from 1-4 in the third to edge veteran Australian duo Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals.

Kratzmann and Black accounted for American doubles pair Alex O'Brien and Jared Palmer in the semis.

At his peak, Leach combined with Pugh to win back-to-back Australian Open doubles titles and the Wimbledon doubles final in 1990.

He has won at least one doubles title per year for the last 13 years but hadn't won a Grand Slam since partnering Ken Flach to win at the U.S. Open in 1993.

Leach and Ferreira won in Auckland earlier this month, at Rome last year and at Key Biscayne in 1998 but the Australian Open was their first Grand Slam final together.


 
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