Tennis: Rafter on roll for Australia

PAT RAFTER'S sprinted to his third straight victory over Pete Sampras as Australia reached the World Team Cup final by winning both singles matches against the United States yesterday.

Rafter, the world No 3, needed just one hour 16 minutes to close out a 6-3, 7-5 victory in the first meeting between the players on clay. "It was fun for us to play on a different surface than hard courts. I thought we showed some good serve-and-volley tennis," Rafter said.

Rafter arrived in good form after reaching last week's final at the Italian Open, while Sampras, who has played just five events this year, is still rusty on clay. The American let three set points slip away in the second set, two with volleys at the net. Australia' s victory means they will face Sweden in today's final.

Mark Philippoussis had given Australia a 1-0 lead in the tie when he struggled past Richey Reneberg 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 in the first singles.

Philippoussis squandered a match point at 6-5 in the second set when he missed one of numerous backhands throughout the match. The world No 10 also let a 5-2 third set lead slip away before recovering against the American. Philippoussis was also treated for a tight hamstring, and said he thought of withdrawing to save himself for the French Open, which starts on Monday.

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