Thursday, August 12, 1999

Rafter cruises into round of 16


Second seed calm, patient in first match

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

rafter
Patrick Rafter returns.
(Saed Hindash photos)
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        MASON — Patrick Rafter didn't expect to be this relaxed. But he has come into the summer hardcourt season with an air of calm he can't explain.

        “I really don't know a reason for it,” he said.

        It showed in his patience Wednesday night as the defending champion and No. 2 seed of the Great American Insurance ATP Championship got past Daniel Vacek 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 in his first match of the tournament.

        Rafter's serve was never broken, and he seized his opportunity when Vacek double-faulted on break point to go down 5-3 in the second set. Rafter served out the victory.

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Nice shorts, eh?
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        “I could've lost that match tonight, but I got through it, so I'm happy,” Rafter said.

        Rafter, playing with tendinitis in his right shoulder that started at the French Open, has won 14 of his past 16 matches and faces 15th-seeded Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador in today's third match on Center Court. The two have met only once before — in May in Rome (Rafter won 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.).

        "I won that, but I really was in a lot of trouble there,” Rafter said.

        Vacek was a quarterfinalist here last year after upsetting Jason Stoltenberg, No.2 seed and then-top-ranked Marcelo Rios and Jan Siemerink before losing to Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

        But Vacek is ranked No. 60 in the world, and Rafter has not lost to an opponent ranked that low since the end of April.

        Ten of the 16 seeded players remain in the field of 16.

        Today's other top matches:

        • No. 1 seed Pete Sampras plays Rainer Schuttler at 1 p.m.

        • No. 3 seed Andre Agassi meets Jiri Novak at 7 p.m.

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