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Rafter to play Australian Open

December 24, 2003 12:58 IST
Pat Rafter is to play doubles at the Australian Open next month, the tournament's chief executive Paul McNamee said on Wednesday.

McNamee's announcement came a day after Australian hardcourt championships director Colin Stubs said the former world number one, who retired at the start of 2003, would play doubles as a wildcard entrant in that event next month in Adelaide.

However Stubs said Rafter, who turns 31 on Sunday, was not planning a comeback to the professional circuit and McNamee refused to speculate on the topic on Wednesday.

"He'll be a really good addition to the tournament and for the fans in particular. The fans will get a kick out of it," McNamee said.

"It's been on the cards for a while, especially when Pat was ordering the tournament balls a few weeks ago. That's always a positive sign.

"It'll be interesting to see how he goes. He and (doubles partner) Josh (Eagle) will have had a game in Adelaide (January 5-11) and that will have them in good stead for Melbourne (January 19-February 1)."

Rafter announced his retirement in January 2003, more than a year after he played his last competitive match when Australia lost the Davis Cup final to France 3-2 in Melbourne in December 2001.

"It's great that he has confirmed this early that he is playing. It's a real bonus for us," Australian Open spokesman John Lindsay said on Wednesday.

One of the few genuine serve-and-volleyers to succeed in the modern game, Rafter won the 1997 and 1998 U.S. Open titles and briefly reached the top of the world rankings in July 1999.

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