Rafter approval for portable grass court

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The Independent Online

Australia's leading singles players gave their approval to the portable grass court at Melbourne Park's Rod Laver Arena yesterday after trying out the surface in advance of this weekend's Davis Cup final against France.

Pat Rafter said the court looked good and played well when he and Lleyton Hewitt had their first practice session. "I thought it came up well, it played great," Rafter said. The Australian coach, Wally Masur, was more emphatic, saying: "We're over the moon with the court. It's a spectacular innovation."

Tennis Australia, which claims to have produced the world's first portable grass court, grew the surface 60 miles from where it now lies. Masur said the seams in the strips of grass used are virtually invisible and added that the court would only get better as the players practised on it.

Gustavo Kuerten may have been pipped for the year-end world No 1 spot in the final week of the season, but the Brazilian is still top when it comes to earnings. The French Open champion's $4,091,004 (£2.9m) was enough to make him No 1 in the prize money stakes, according to figures released by the ATP yesterday.

Hewitt, who became the youngest world No 1 earlier this month at the age of 20, is not too far behind. His $4,045,618 year puts him second on the list, while Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov is third with $3,238,889. The Australian Open champion, Andre Agassi, is fourth with $2,341,766.