Rafter Wins Opener, Sampras Looming at Cabo Seniors

Posted on March 19, 2009

Former No. 1 Patrick Rafter of Australia made a successful debut on the Outback Champions Series Thursday, defeating Luis Herrera of Mexico 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the $150,000 Del Mar Development Champions Cup at the Palmilla Tennis Club.

Rafter, the two-time US Open champion, is making his first tournament appearance on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over, and will next play Jim Courier of the United States in Friday's semifinals. Also on Thursday, former world No. 1 Mats Wilander of Sweden advanced into the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Leonardo Lavalle of Mexico. Wilander will next face 14-time major singles champion Pete Sampras in the other men's semifinal scheduled for Saturday.

"I was pretty happy with the way I played all around," said Rafter after his win over Herrera. "I have always been happy to get on the court and represent my country. I am excited to be here. My family and I are really happy to be in Cabo. I have never been here and it is so beautiful."

Wilander played his usual steady baseline game on the hard courts of the Palmilla Tennis Club against Lavalle, who like Rafter was making his Outback Champions Series debut.

"I got my unforced errors down, played the points out because I could see Leo getting tired," said Wilander. "I also played with high intensity."

Against Sampras, Wilander said he will need to rely on his first serve and play aggressive if he is able to upset the seven-time Wimbledon champion on Saturday.

"I plan on hitting our on the serve a lot more and going for the returns a little more," said Wilander of playing Sampras. "With Pete it is like target tennis, quick points. This is good and bad, not much rhythm but quick points."

Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating John McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February. McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Jim Courier in the final.