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Rodriguez Upsets Rafter at AT&T

April 28, 1999

DULUTH, Ga. (AP) _ Undaunted by a 45-minute rain delay in the first set, unseeded Martin Rodriguez upset two-time defending U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter in the first round of the AT&T Challenge Tuesday night.

When play resumed, Rodriguez finished a 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5) victory over the top-seeded Rafter, who came to the Atlanta Athletic Club as the world’s fourth-ranked player.

``I beat MaliVai Washington in Orlando in 1987,″ said Rodriguez, an Argentinian currently ranked 101st in the world. ``But this is best win I’ve had against a player ranked so high.″

Rafter said the surface ``was heavy to start with, but I just couldn’t play the style of game I wanted.″

``It’s very, very frustrating,″ Rafter said. ``It’s a pathetic situation for me right now because I feel very little confidence.″

Rodriguez was beaten in a Sunday qualifying match by Uruguay’s Marcelo Filippini 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-0, but made the field because he was the highest-ranked player among the qualifying losers after Christian Ruud and Laurence Tieleman pulled out.

``I started to play more aggressive and started to return the ball better and take more risks when I was down 4-1 (in the first set),″ Rodriguez said. ``This was my second tournament this year on clay, so I think that helped.″

Unseeded Jim Courier, who lost in the first round last week at the Clay Court Championships in his hometown of Orlando, Fla., had no trouble beating Sweden’s Mikael Tillstrom 6-3, 6-4 in the last match of the day.

Currently ranked 67th, Courier won his first match in Atlanta in three tries.

``I feel like I’m hitting the ball well, and when that’s the case, you usually know how you’re going to play,″ he said. ``I was moving well and thinking clearly on the court. The conditions were pretty tough, especially the way the court was breaking up in some places.″

Third-seeded Vince Spadea was forced to wait a day to continue his match with Max Mirnyi of Belarus after rain postponed afternoon matches.

Sporting a No. 26 ATP Tour ranking _ the highest of his eight-year professional career _ Spadea was tied 1-1 with Mirnyi in the first set when a five-hour storm began.

Magnus Norman of Sweden led 4-3 over Spain’s Galo Blanco when the rain started and seventh-seeded Jan-Michael Gambill was unable to start his match against Justin Gimelstob because of the bad weather.

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