Tennis Prose



Post-Tour, Patrick Rafter’s Life Is ‘Like Groundhog Day’

Two-time U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter, who plays a few weeks of senior-tour tennis every year, has lately been putting more emphasis on his spiritual side than on his game.
Last month in Delray Beach, Fla., Rafter defeated John McEnroe, 7-6, 7-6, in a scintillating final, to win an ATP Champions Tour event.
Like most of his senior-tour brethren, Rafter finds playing these events more fun than regular ATP matches once were. “Here you feel a little pressure, because you’re competing to win. But if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter,” the 1997 and 1998 U.S. Open champion, now 37, says.
Of course, if Rafter had gone down to McEnroe, who is nearly 14 years his senior, there would have been consequences. “If I lose to Johnny Mac, I’ll just get so much s— from my brothers and friends in Adelaide,” Rafter says.

After having been based in Bermuda for much of his ATP career, Rafter moved back to Australia when he retired from the Tour in 2002. He now resides in the Queensland town of Sunshine Beach with his wife Lara Feltham, a former fashion model, and their son Joshua, 7, and daughter India, 4.

Rafter seems to have more fear about parenting than he ever did about playing tennis. “I’m scared that I won’t do the right thing,” he says. “I have kids with two different personalities. If I’m feeling grumpy, I have to be careful how I speak to them.”

He’s a former world No. 1, but Rafter’s daily routine includes plenty of everyman activities: He helps send his children off to school, gets a bit of exercise, runs a few errands, picks up the kids and then comes home for the evening.

“It’s sort of like Groundhog day,” Rafter says.

The exercise includes golf, surfing and rugby. He played a season of minor league Australian Rules football when he finished with tennis, but didn’t enjoy the injuries.

As far as tennis goes, Rafter only plays regularly when he’s preparing for senior events, generally practicing about three times a week in the month preceding the tournament. But the tender right shoulder that helped force him into retirement in the first place precludes him from working on his serve.

On the spiritual side, Rafter, raised Catholic, has been investigating Buddhism and Hinduism lately. “I’ve always been looking around,” he says. “I think there’s something out there. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t believe there’s necessarily a person-like God.”

He says the appeal of Buddhism and Hinduism derives from their emphasis on kindness to others, regardless of race, religion or creed. “They’re not exclusive,” Rafter notes. “They don’t try to say they’re the chosen ones.”

On the less spiritual side, the former heartthrob endorses Australian underwear maker Bonds. “Now I’m known as the underwear guy,” Rafter said. “I do pictures and TV commercials, which I absolutely detest.”

Article published by in March 2010


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