Edberg and Rafter shake hands after the final in London
from ATP Champions Tour.com
Pat Rafter won the AEGON Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall after a spell-binding serve-and-volley showdown with Stefan Edberg in Sunday’s final.
The Australian triumphed 6-7(5), 6-4, 11-9 (Champions Tie-Break) in a match that rolled back the years and reminded a packed crowd and ITV4 television audience of how tennis used to be played in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This was the ATP Champions Tour at its best.
Edberg had been the in-form player coming into the final, with round-robin victories over Younes El Aynaoui, Mark Philippoussis and Greg Rusedski, while Rafter had lost to Pat Cash and benefited from the retirement of Goran Ivanisevic while trailing 3-5 in the first set on Saturday.
In a pulsating first set against against Rafter, it was a similar story, with Edberg winning the big points in the tie-break to take it 7-5.
The 36-year-old Rafter went up a gear in set two, breaking the 43-year-old Edberg to win the set 6-4 and take it into a sudden-death decider - the Champions’ Tie-Break.
Both players continued to throw the kitchen sink at one another, serving, volleying, chipping and charging, and generally giving a masterclass in how to play tennis near the net.
It was Rafter who finally struck the decisive blow, hitting a stunning running backhand down the line passed the incoming Edberg to take the mini-break and a 10-9 lead. A point later he served it out to take the title on his debut at the AEGON Masters Tennis. It was Rafter’s first win over Edberg in four attempts.
The ATP Champions Tour will recommence in 2010 with new events in Delray Beach, Florida (February 20-23), and Zurich (March 9-13).
P. Rafter bt. S. Edberg 6-7 7-5 11-9
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