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Hewitt/Rafter Pair Up In Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

Hewitt, Rafter© Getty ImagesLleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter are pairing up at the Australian Open.

Extra spotlight will shine on the doubles competition at the Australian Open after it was revealed that Lleyton Hewitt and Davis Cup captain Patrick Rafter will pair up at Melbourne Park. The Australians are due to face Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen in the first round, with the prospect of World No. 1 pairing Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, should they reach the third round.

“I think he still thinks he's got it in him, so...  Hope I don't have to carry him too much!” joked Hewitt on Sunday. “I actually asked him a little while ago. He still hits a lot at the Davis Cup ties, works us out a bit. It’s just a bit of fun. It will be nice on my off days, hopefully I'm still in the singles, to go out and play dubs with Pat. He's hitting the ball well enough. Beat Ivanisevic and Henman and those guys over in the [ATP Champions Tour] last month. Just going to be a bit of fun for both of us.”

The 41-year-old Rafter, a two-time major champion, played his last professional match in 2001, the year he finished runner-up to Goran Ivanisevic in an epic Wimbledon final, but will step out of retirement to play with Hewitt for the first time at the Australian Open. Hewitt and Rafter will play together for the first time since the 2001 Davis Cup final against France, a match they lost in four sets.

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“It was shocking, horrible,” reminisced Rafter. “I was really bad. So 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. But I'll have fun. I'm playing with one of the best players in the competition. I figure it's like eating chocolate and having broccoli, sort of equals it out.”

In their time together on the doubles court, Hewitt and Rafter compiled a 12-4 record, reaching the semi-finals in Hamburg and Miami. “I obviously looked up to Pat a hell of a lot growing up,” said the 32-year-old Hewitt. “He really helped me out. It's great that he's Davis Cup captain for me now, 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.”

While Hewitt is looking forward to taking the court with his former mentor, Rafter, the recent Statoil Masters Tennis champion has some doubts about his own performance level. “I've had a great relationship with Lleyton over the years,” said the Queenslander. “Also Davis Cup, we've played a few practice matches in Davis Cup. But under pressure I'll probably choke. Expect that to happen.  

“Doubles has changed since I played. We used to play first serve, first volley, sort of don't miss. Now they're jumping all over the place. They're serving just rocket ships down at you. I can't return at the best of times. I don't know what I'm going to do out there,” he laughed.

Rafter was also quick to quash any notion that he and Hewitt would act as Australia’s Davis Cup doubles pairing. Australia is due to face France in the World Group first round next month. “I hope not. There would have to be food poisoning, sicknesses. That would be my worst nightmare!”

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