LONDON (AP) _ Pat Rafter replaced Andre Agassi as the No. 1 player in men’s tennis today, becoming the first Australian in 25 years to hold the top ranking.
The two-time defending U.S. Open champion is followed in this week’s rankings by Pete Sampras, Agassi, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Tim Henman.
The last Australian to be ranked No. 1 was John Newcombe on June 3, 1974.
``I’ve always thought that the years 2000 and 2001 will be his major two years,″ said Newcombe, Australia’s Davis Cup captain and the winner of five grand slam events.
``I think he’ll be the best player in the world. He mightn’t be No. 1 the whole time, but he’ll be the dominant player.″
Rafter is the fifth No. 1 player this year, joining Sampras, Carlos Moya, Kafelnikov and Agassi.
Sampras will regain the No. 1 spot if he makes the final of this week’s Los Angeles Open. Rafter is not playing that tournament.
Once called a ``one-slam wonder″ by John McEnroe, Rafter has been consistent this year on various surfaces.
On clay, he reached the finals of the Italian Open and the third round of the French Open. On Wimbledon’s grass he lost in the semifinals to Agassi.
This month he helped Australia beat the United States in the Davis Cup quarterfinals in Brookline, Mass., winning the deciding singles match against Todd Martin.