ATP Tour

Rafter to play in Oz Open

Pat Rafter (AFP)
Pat Rafter (AFP)

Melbourne - Former US Open champion Pat Rafter is coming out of a 13-year retirement to partner Lleyton Hewitt in the doubles at the Australian Open.

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The 41-year-old, who is also Australia's non-playing Davis Cup captain, said Hewitt asked him to play doubles as he seeks extra matches depending on how he fares in the singles at the opening Grand Slam of the year.

Rafter hasn't played since Australia's Davis Cup final loss to France in Melbourne in 2001.

Rafter and Hewitt will face American Eric Butorac and South African Raven Klaasen in the doubles first round.

"I actually asked him a little while ago. He still hits a lot at the Davis Cup ties, works us out a bit," Hewitt said on Sunday.

"It's just a bit of fun. It will be nice on my off days, hopefully I'm still in the singles, on my off days to go out and play doubles with Pat."

Hewitt, who upset Roger Federer to win the Brisbane International final a week ago, has an opening round match with Italian 24th seed Andreas Seppi.

"I obviously looked up to Pat a hell of a lot growing up. He really helped me out," Hewitt said.

"It's great that he's Davis Cup captain for me now, as well. Most likely I'll finish my career with him as Davis Cup captain, which is fantastic for me as well."

Rafter, who won the US Open in 1997 and 1998, said it would be fun to play with the two-time Grand Slam champion at their home Open.

"The hardest part about being around 40 is keeping your body in shape. It's tough, I must admit," Rafter said.

"You don't look after yourself like you did. You're not in the locker room all the time.

"It's just a bit of fun. Doubles, half a court. I think I can do that."

Asked if he would consider rekindling his Davis Cup partnership with Hewitt if they went well this week, Rafter was coy.

"I hope not. There would have to be food poisoning, sicknesses," he said.

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