Goran Ivanisevic provoked memories of his 2001 Wimbledon final win by edging Pat Rafter 10-8 in a deciding set Champions’ Tie-Break, but the Australian still squeezed into the final against John McEnroe in the final at the ATP senior tour event in Sydney.
Ivanisevic won 3-6, 6-3, 10-8, but Rafter still topped Group A with two wins and one loss because of a superior percentage of games won throughout the week. Thomas Enqvist finished second in the group, and will compete in the 3rd/4th place play-off, with Ivanisevic in third.
“I can’t believe I let him beat me again!” Rafter joked. “I have to buy him dinner now, that’s what we agreed before the match. He struggled to get into it in the first set and then I wasn’t playing my best and couldn’t get my serve firing. We got it together in the Champions Tie-Break. John is such a tough guy to play. It’s so difficult to get a read on his serve. When we played earlier this year on the tour it was extremely close and could have gone either way. So I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully I’ll have the crowd behind me because they’ve been great all week.”
McEnroe secured his place in the final in much more straightforward fashion, winning his third consecutive straight-sets match to maintain his 100% record in Group B. The American defeated Mats Wilander in two thrilling tiebreaks 7-6(7), 7-6(0) in one of the highest-quality matches of the week.
Now 52, McEnroe said he is in better shape now than 15 years ago.
“It was so great to be out there tonight and have such an epic battle with my old buddy Mats,” said McEnroe. “That match was a heck of a lot of fun to play and the crowd were so into it and I really appreciate that, especially with so many young kids in the crowd. Mats played some unbelievable tennis and we were really fighting tooth and nail out there. I’m thrilled to have played so well, to have been a part of it and to come out with the win.”
It pits Rafter and McEnroe against each other for only the second time on the ATP Champions Tour. In the Delray Beach final in February, Rafter beat the man 14 years his senior 7-6(4), 7-6(1).
“Going into the final against Pat I know he’ll have the home crowd on his side so of course it will be tough,” McEnroe said. “I feel like I’m tough to beat at the moment though and I’m fitter now than I was 15 years ago.”
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