TENNIS: Rafter unfazed by top ranking

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The Independent Online
THE AUSTRALIAN player Pat Rafter has admitted he is not particularly concerned about his imminent rise to the top of the men's world rankings.

Rafter will become the latest world No 1 when the new rankings are released today. He becomes the first Australian to hold the top position since John Newcombe in 1974.

However, the twice US Open champion yesterday said he could not understand what the fuss was about. "At this point of my career, when there is hopefully a lot left ahead of me, it is almost insignificant." Rafter wrote in his column in Melbourne's Sunday Herald-Sun newspaper. "But, at the same time, it is very nice to say I made it to No 1, regardless of how long I stay there."

ATP Tour officials have said that under their computer rankings system, Rafter is scheduled to take over the top place from the French Open champion and Wimbledon runner-up, Andre Agassi. He said there was a "historical implication" in reaching the top that he would appreciate more when his career was over.

"But winning Grand Slams is more important," said Rafter, who last week led Australia to victory over the United States in their Davis Cup quarter- final tie in Boston. "We play this sport to win matches and titles," he wrote. "The ranking is a reflection of that."

Rafter said that he would be spending the next week at his base in Bermuda, preparing for the Montreal tournament starting on 2 August and the lead- up to the US Open.

The unseeded Swede Magnus Norman won the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart yesterday, with the help of a dramatic collapse from Tommy Haas in front of his home crowd. The 21-year-old German was within two points of a three-set victory, leading 5-4, 30-love in the third set, when his game deserted him. Norman, taking his fourth career title and second this year, fought back to win 6-7, 4-6, 7-6, 6-0, 6-3.

Haas, who should appear in the top 15 of the new world rankings despite the defeat, appeared to lose his self-control in the third set tie-break after fighting off five set points. At one stage his frustration clearly got the better of him as he kicked his racket after a double-fault.

It was a disappointing finale for the German supporters, whose expectations of success are still high as they await a successor to Boris Becker.

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