Australian Davis Cup captain Patrick Rafter will make a temporary return to tennis at age 41 when he plays in doubles with former protégé Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open.
The pair of local heroes is going into the event for a bit of a laugh, and their continuation all depends on how 2005 singles runner-up Hewitt does in singles.
“If he has a tough first-round singles match, and has to back up the singles by pulling out of doubles, I’m the guy,” said former US Open winner Rafter, one of the most popular Aussies to ever play the sport.
“It’s really important for him to play great singles, that’s what it’s all about. He still likes playing competitive matches. He gets through the first singles, he feels comfortable, feeling he might want to play, it’s whatever Lleyton wants.” In typical fashion, Rafter downplayed his current abilities on court.
“In Davis Cup, we’ve played a few practice matches. I’ve kept playing a little bit, but under pressure I’ll probably choke — expect that to happen,” he joked.
“My mates are sending me texts saying, ‘Can you please work on your returns.’ I’ll be definitely the worst player in the competition out there.” Hewitt was pleased to be trying the experiment.
“It’s good fun for both of us obviously. I looked up to Pat a hell of a lot growing up, he really helped me out. Most likely I’ll finish my career with him as Davis Cup captain, which is fantastic for me as well.
“While we’re still able to move around the court together, it’s nice we can go out there and play in a Grand Slam.”