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Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Sunday, 3 August 2008 18:00 UK

Pat Rafter Q&A

Pat Rafter
Rafter has chosen to play some competitive tennis again

Pat Rafter made a return to competitive tennis last week, playing his first event on the BlackRock Tour of Champions in Graz, Austria.

The twice US Open champion and former world number one came back in style, beating Michael Stich 6-4 7-6 (7-4) on Saturday to take the title.

And the Australian also took some time out to answer questions from 606 users.

What was the most disappointing loss in your career? (From Magpie)

Oh, I had a few of those… It's probably one of the Davis Cup matches when you get so close to winning it. We played France in Australia and it was the way I finished my career, so it would have been nice to have won that.

Nadal is about to become the world number one, but do you think Federer will regain his spot at the top? (carpo975)

I was really over tennis and I felt like I had been on the tour for so long, although I was only 28 or 29

You never write off a champion. I would like to think he would get back to the top. But Nadal is the best player in the world at the moment and he deserves his spot because I just can't see how he won't be the number one at the end of the year.

Federer needs to change a little bit. If he can change his game I think he'll be number one again.

I'd like to see him be a bit more aggressive. He has got to take more chances from the baseline because it is obvious that he can't compete with Nadal from the baseline anymore. I think he is a good and talented enough player to do that.

What's happened to Australian tennis? Outside of an ageing Hewitt, you've got no one of world class any more - almost unthinkable in years gone by. (SportsRep)

Everyone has caught up with us a bit and I think one of the problems we have, and it's been talked about for many years but has not yet been implemented, is having slower courts.

Rebound Ace is a terrible surface to develop tennis players on and unfortunately the national tennis centres around Australia all have Rebound Ace. We have got a crisis here that we have to address. The players have to learn how to play, be patient, and become real tennis players.

You enjoyed a 3-0 record against Roger Federer in your career. Did you recognise anything about his game in those matches which made you think he would become such a dominant force? (Flipside)

Pat Rafter
Rafter successfully defended his US Open title in 1998
He was one of those players that did everything well. He had a bit of a mental problem early on in his career, he gave people too much respect and he was defeated sometimes before he walked on court. When things didn't go his way he would get upset.

But the last time I played him he had match points on me. You could see then that he was developing, getting confidence and becoming a very good player. I didn't realise that he would be this good but has proven to be one of the greatest.

How disappointed are you to see that there are virtually no specialist serve-volleyers on the tour any more? (lockyboy121)

It is disappointing I think, the game needs it. The game really does need to have contrasts. I always really enjoyed playing someone like Andre Agassi and hated to play other serve and volleyers because you didn't match up quite as well.

But just playing here on clay in Graz this week shows that you can actually serve and volley really comfortably on clay. I think it's up to the ATP and ITF to change the rules and help bring in conditions that make it more favourable for serve and volley players to develop.

Outside the current 'big three', who can you see winning a Slam in the next few years? (HSBallGirl)

No one actually! At this stage they are the three most dominant players in the world.

Who are your favourite players in the game now, and why? (goransmissus)

I'd like to see Federer become the greatest. I think he deserves that title. Unfortunately for him he has come up against the greatest clay-courter that has ever played the game. That is just bad luck for Roger! But everyone has had different reasons why they haven't been the greatest of all time. He is one of my favourites and just watching him and Nadal play tough matches is great for the game.

Who would you most like to play if you had the chance and on what surface? (goransmissus)

I'd like to play against Nadal. But it certainly wouldn't be on clay…! I could tell you the scoreline right now before even walking out on court. But to play someone like him on a grass court or on a US Open type surface would be very interesting. It just would be interesting to see the change and difference to the game.

Do you regret retiring so early and did you miss playing? (RafaRoastLamb)

I think early on you regret, maybe not regret, but sort of miss the game a little bit and miss the opportunity of winning Grand Slams. But at that stage I was really over tennis and I felt like I had been on the tour for so long, although I was only 28 or 29. I still felt like I had run myself into the ground having worked so hard, I was so tired. But now I certainly don't regret it. I do have a family now and that's one thing I wanted to do at relatively young age and not leave it until too late.

Do you keep in contact with any of your fellow pros from your tour days? (B_Millsy)

With the Australian guys I do because we're all in Australia, so it's easy to catch up with people. The international players I only see at the Australian Open or if I play events like these around the traps. It's always fun to catch up with people but there is no use to really keep in touch because you might not see each other for years. But it's really enjoyable seeing them here this week in Graz. I had tons of laughs with the guys here, they are crazy b******s.

What music, if any, did you listen to before matches to get the adrenaline pumping? (MontyPanesar)

I didn't listen to music before matches. I like sort of calming music. I listened to a lot of Ben Harper during my US Open matches. That was nice calming music a few hours before I played. Before the matches I did a lot of mental visualisation, getting myself mentally prepared.

The Tour culminates in the BlackRock Masters at the Royal Albert Hall in London in December, with Goran Ivanisevic, Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe among those competing.

see also
Rafter rules out return
08 Jan 04 |  Tennis

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