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Doubles Stars At Heineken Open

The strength of the Heineken Open is at an all time high in the Vodafone singles with the doubles looking to be just as strong as the world's top competitors in the four man game line up in Auckland.

Scheduled for January 7 - 12 the Heineken Open has confirmed the entries of doubles specialists, American Rick Leach and South African Ellis Ferreira, former winners in Auckland.

At 37, Leach remains one of the game's premier doubles players. He finished 2001 on a 14-match winning streak, and with three consecutive titles, including the Tennis Masters Series in Paris with Ferreira.

Leach, who has won at least one title a year for 15 consecutive years, is a complete player who boasts very good returns and an excellent serve-volley game.

He is one of the best 10 doubles players of the modern era. Ferreira, 30, is a mercurial player who many players rate as the best in the game when he's "on." A devastating returner capable of hitting a series of outright winners, he hits the ball cleanly and aggressively.

Joining Leach and Ferreria are other top doubles players in the form of two previous singles champions Jonas Bjorkman, and Jiri Novak. Between the four players they have a total of 99 doubles titles.

Leach has the highest number of titles with 42 including five grand slam titles - Australian Open 1988, 89 and 2000 with Ferreira, Wimbledon 1990 and US Open 1993. Bjorkman has won three out of the last four doubles titles at the Grand Slam event in Melbourne. Bjorkman won in 1998 with Jacco Eltingh, 99 with Pat Rafter and 2001 with Todd Woodbridge.

Teaming up with Woodbridge throughout the year the Swedish/Australian combination won two Tennis Masters Series events, plus the Australian Open and were finalists on four other occasions.

Jiri Novak who is regularly partnered by David Rikl won two Tennis Masters Series events at Miami and Montreal in 2001. Together they also made the final of Wimbledon, Vienna and Copenhagen. The Czech duo finished the year as the third best combination in the world.

The record of each player in Auckland is superb with Leach and Ferreria winning the title in 2000, Novak and Rikl reaching the final in 1999. In 1997 Ferreira teamed with Pat Galbraith to win the title beating Leach and Jonathan Stark in the final.

Bjorkman was to feature in the 96 doubles final with Kiwi Brett Steven, although they did not take the court after rain delayed the final.

Heineken Open tournament director Graham Pearce said "It's great to see such high quality players set to take part in the Vodafone doubles at the Heineken Open where doubles is recognised as great entertainment. These players get terrific support from the Auckland crowd who recognise their skills. It's another part of what will be a great event all round."

The Heineken Open main draw commences on Monday January 7 and runs until the final on Saturday January 12.


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