Boomtown SW19 for Rafter

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The Independent Online

Pat Rafter has one of the best serves in men's tennis and the Australian gave a full demonstration of his talents at Wimbledon yesterday.

Pat Rafter has one of the best serves in men's tennis and the Australian gave a full demonstration of his talents at Wimbledon yesterday.

Rafter's booming serve was back in business after a shoulder injury as he swept aside his fellow countryman, Todd Woodbridge, 6-3 6-3 6-4 and breezed into the third round. Nationality and friendship meant nothing to Rafter.

"Today was a day I made my mind up I was going to knuckle down and play a good aggressive game and not show too much friendship. Out there I was pretty hungry and very determined."

Rafter had to take five months off over the new year to have an operation on his shoulder, but his game is back to its best, especially his serve. "I did play very well," he said. "Today I felt a lot better with my serve."

He admitted that it was only on the hard courts of New York that he could beat anyone in the world, whereas Wimbledon was always a much tougher task. "I probably need to flatten out my serve and hope for a miracle, I guess," he said.

The injury-imposed rest has benefited Rafter. The 12th seed, beaten by Woodbridge the last time they met at Wimbledon, was in superlative form. The first set was a see-saw affair as Rafter raced to a 3-0 lead before Woodbridge steadied himself. Rafter, moving fluently across court, was terrier-like in his determination.

In the second set Rafter was rampant, losing three points on his serve. Woodbridge, one of the world's best doubles players, was superb at the net, but his serve was woeful. Rafter never let his concentration slip in the last set.

After the match Rafter revealed what Wimbledon means to him, saying he remembered as a boy in Australia getting up at two o'clock in the morning to watch matches on television. "Dad would let us. We'd get a rug out," said Rafter, one of nine children.

Asked what made an Australian sports star, he said: "I like to think the Aussies are very laid-back and approachable people."

Fast cars and fast serves certainly go together at Wimbledon. The American Jan-Michael Gambill already has six Jaguar sports cars and he cannot wait for the new one to come out.

"I'm excited to go back and drive them. I just got new rims for my XKR, 20-inch rims," he told reporters at one post-match press conference. "I'm looking forward to the Jaguar F type that's coming out in the next year. That will be the next time I add to my collection."

Meanwhile Australia's Mark Philippousis is trying to control his obsession. "I'm 23 and I could tell you I've probably had at least 16 cars. I've had everything you could possibly have. Now I'm a little sick of it, which is good, which is a phase I went through. I got it out of my system."

He has therefore cut himself down to just one car. "I have a Ferrari still," he said.

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