Playing against each for the first time in 10 years, Patrick Rafter of Australia defeated Jim Courier of the United States 6-3, 6-2 Friday to reach the final of the $150,000 Del Mar Development Champions Cup.
Playing in his debut tournament on the Outback Champions Series, Rafter used his trademark serve and volley game on the hard courts of the Palmilla Tennis Club to dictate play and set up a possible final-round showdown with Pete Sampras, his top rival during his ATP career. Sampras will play Mats Wilander of Sweden in the tournament’s other semifinal on Saturday.
Rafter and Courier were competing for the first time since the 1999 Davis Cup quarterfinal between the United States and Australia at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston, Mass., where Rafter beat Courier 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-4 in what was ultimately Courier’s final Davis Cup appearance. Despite the loss to Rafter — his fourth in four career meetings — Courier said he enjoyed the challenge of playing the two-time U.S. Open champion for the first time on the Outback Champions Series.
“It feels good to play a match like this and with guys at this level,” said Courier. “Pat was just too tough to beat.”
Said Rafter, “It was a lot of fun to play Jim today. He has always been a great opponent.”
Rafter tipped the heavily-favored Sampras to beat Wilander in Saturday’s other semifinal and be his final-round opponent on Sunday. A Rafter-Sampras final would be a re-match of the 2000 Wimbledon final which was won by Sampras 6-7 (10), 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2 that gave Sampras his record-breaking 13th major singles title and his seventh — and final — Wimbledon singles title.
“I am really looking forward to playing on Sunday with Pete,” said Rafter. “It will be very tough but I am really enjoying my first time on the Outback Champions Series.”
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. Following the Del Mar Development Champions Cup, Outback Champions Series events will be played in Grand Cayman (April 23-26), Newport, R.I. (August 20-23), Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).
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