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 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 03:09 GMT
Rafter announces retirement
Pat Rafter
Rafter said he no longer felt motivated to play
Australian Pat Rafter has retired from professional tennis at the age of 30.

The two-time US Open winner and former world number one announced on Thursday he was bowing out of the sport.

Rafter has not played since the Davis Cup final in 2001, when Australia were narrowly beaten by France.

But he had hinted he was planning a return to the ATP tour after recovering from an arm injury.

I can leave the game, satisfied with my achievements, knowing that I gave it my all

Pat Rafter

However, on Thursday he told the media in an open letter he no longer felt the motivation to compete at the highest level.

He said: "I know it's been a while coming, but I am announcing my official retirement from professional tennis.

"After taking several months for my arm to recover from stress fracture injuries I sustained in late 2001, I wanted to make sure that besides gaining physical fitness, I still had the motivation to compete.

"If I couldn't commit to giving 100% to the game, then there would be no point in returning. By the end of 2002, the motivation just wasn't there and my decision was made."

Rafter won the US Open in 1997 and 1998 but was twice a losing finalist at Wimbledon in 2000 and again in 2001.

Looking back at his Wimbledon defeats, he added: "That's sport, you win some and you lose some.

"However, I feel I can leave the game, satisfied with my achievements, knowing that I gave it my all."

He really contributed heavily to our sport and to his country

Australian Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald

He said he would focus his attention on his partner, Lara Feltham, and their first child, who was born in August last year.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard led the tributes for the player, saying he would be sorely missed.

"I want to say to you Pat, you've been a wonderful ornament of Australian tennis, a great sportsman, a role model in his demeanour to young sportsmen and women all around the country and all around the world," he said.

Another fellow Australian and world number one Lleyton Hewitt insisted Rafter was his early inspiration for the game.

"He's still hitting the ball well enough to chop up a lot of guys on the tour," Hewitt said.

Meanwhile, countryman Mark Philippoussis, shared Rafter's regret at missing out on Australia's 1999 Davis Cup win due to injury.

"That would have been the icing on his career. I would have liked to have seen him win the Davis Cup."

And Davis Cup captain John Fitzgerald said Rafter had given much to tennis and Australian sport in general.

"The game was good to him, but he really contributed heavily to our sport and to his country which I'll always remember," he said.

See also:

31 Aug 02 | Tennis
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