Pat Rafter's grand slam comeback gets cut short

MELISSA WOODS
Last updated 03:26 16/01/2014
Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter
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DOUBLES TROUBLE: Lleyton Hewitt (left) and Pat Rafter during their doubles loss to Eric Butorac of the United States and Raven Klassen of South Africa at the Australian Open.

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Pat Rafter's return derailed his return to grand slam tennis as he and fellow Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt bowed out in the first round of the Australian Open men's doubles.

Rafter's serve fired and he showed he hadn't lost much at net in the nine years since his last doubles match and 11 since his retirement from singles.

But as the 41-year-old feared, his return was the duo's weakness as they fell 6-4 7-5 to American Eric Butorac and South African Raven Klaasen in front of a large Hisense Arena crowd thrilled to have the one-time Australian golden boy back on court.

Even world No 1 women's player Serena Williams was glued to the television to watch Rafter in action.

"Sooooooooooo awesome to watch Pat Rafter play doubles with Hewitt. ," she tweeted on Wednesday night.

"I served better than I thought I would," the two-time US Open champion said.

"Gee I wish I returned better.

"It came to the stage where I thought I might as well laugh at it."

It began well enough with Rafter slotting two winning backhand volleys and an overhead smash to seal Hewitt's service game.

They were broken in the fifth game of the opening set which proved the difference.

Both teams managed to hold serve in the second set until 5-5, when the Australians were again broken.

Rafter was watched in the stands by Goran Ivanisevic - who defeated him in an epic 2001 Wimbledon final.

The big Croatian, who plays on the seniors tour with Rafter, was frank in his assessment of his play.

"He gave it to me afterwards saying he couldn't believe how bad my return was.

"He said it was 'effing bad' and I said yes, what can you say."

Hewitt and Rafter hatched the doubled plan at the last Davis Cup, with Rafter the Australian coach.

They said it was a one-off.

"I don't think it will happen again but it was good fun while it lasted," Rafter said.

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- AAP

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