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Pat Rafter: The Former World #1 Tennis Champion – Ep. 10

November 5, 2019

[Umpire] — First set. Patrick Rafter to serve.
Play. Success for me was being
the best tennis player I possibly could be. It wasn’t based on ranking.
It wasn’t based on money. It was based on did I give myself
the best opportunity to become the best tennis player I possibly could become. [Hugh Minson] Two mates are on a mission
to figure out how 10 Aussie icons in completely different fields
broke away from the pack. We want to dig deeper, see if anyone
can do what they’ve done and figure out their common thread. Pat Rafter is one of Australia’s
most loved sports stars. A former world number one tennis player,
he won 11 career singles titles, including two US Opens and a Davis Cup. He also won 10 doubles titles including
the Australian Open and earnt over $12 million in total career prize money. Since retiring, he’s been named
Australian of the Year, inducted into the International Tennis
and Sport Australia halls of fame, coached Australia’s Davis Cup team
and had centre court of the Queensland Tennis Centre
named in his honour. Having locked horns with
the feminist writer, Germaine Greer, in Melbourne, Jack and I
headed off to Bondi Beach in Sydney for our last interview of the series with Pat. We wanted to not only explore
how he rose to the top of the sport, but to also learn how he’s won
the hearts and minds of people around the world. [Jack Morphet] Righto Pat, what motivated you
as a tennis player? [Pat] What motivated me to be
a tennis player was to win Grand Slams. What motivated me to be
a tennis player when I was young, I just loved the game.
I love how it was… … every different shot was a different shot
and you had to learn different wind, different ball conditions,
different court surfaces, different speeds. Everything was changing the whole time.
It never got stale. So for me, I was motivated enough
to try and master it and see how good I could get at it. [Jack] But then, as a younger player,
just say 16 or 17, were you motivated
to make a name for yourself? [Pat] Yeah, I think so. I think one of the things
that really motivated me was if I could afford my own house –
wouldn’t that be just great? And that was all I really wanted. I grew up with mortgages
and things all around you. So you sit there and go,
“Well, I am going to try and break free of all that.” But I saw a life as having a family,
living in the house and that was all cool. And if I own my own house
then that was successful. [Hugh] Pat was born in the mining town
of Mt. Isa in Queensland as the seventh of nine children. He picked up a tennis racquet
at the age of five and soon had the support of his family around him,
helping him realise his natural talents
but it wasn’t always easy. [Pat] I think it was Target, we used
to stop in at and get these, um, Super Seven shoes,
in these plastic shoes and they did pretty well
and I used to love them. Mum used to make all the clothes up
and put little crocodiles on my clothes. [TV Interviewer] Did she really?
– [Pat] Yeah. [TV Interviewer] To make them look like LaCoste?
– [Pat] Yeah. [TV Interviewer] Is that right?
– [Pat chuckles] [Jack] Where has your family held you back
as a tennis player and where have they helped you along? [Pat] It’s been a really remarkable life,
mate, that I’ve lived. Now if I had everything given to me
and I came from a very wealthy family, I may not have had that drive to play tennis. But what I did have was support
from every single one of them and I had time from my parents. Amongst all the other kids in the family,
and an opportunity, and positive energy. I think that’s really important, you know? Sometimes you come back
and you’re brothers will slag you off for being a bit of a prick
but that was all part of it as well. Get a bit of a big head,
they’ll knock you down. But it wasn’t a negative thing.
It was just the Australian way. [Hugh] Pat was never known
for having a big head. At the age of 19, in 1991,
he turned pro and joined the World Tour. He won his first tournament in ‘94
before his breakout year in ‘97 where he surprised many
by winning the US Open. [David Letterman] Yesterday, our next guest won
the US Open tennis championship earning his first ever Grand Slam title
and becoming the tournament’s only Australian winner
in more than two decades. Here he is, your 1997 US Open champion,
Patrick Rafter. Where were you ranked before the tournament? [Pat] 14.
– [Letterman] 14, so that’s pretty good though, to be 14th? [Pat] Yeah, it was great for me. I mean it was my highest ever ranking
and I was very happy being there. But I never would have dreamed
I’d ever be three in the world. [Letterman] Yeah, when did you start
to get the feeling, “Gee, things might go my way here?” [Pat] Ummm, yesterday. [Letterman] Yeah?
[Audience applauding and Letterman laughing] [Hugh] He would follow up again
in 1998 to win 6 tournaments for the year, claiming another US Open victory,
beating fellow Aussie, Mark Philippoussis in the final. Pat was known for his unique
playing style of attacking the net and for his sportsmanship. His good looks
and down-to-earth personality resonated with fans the world over. How important were other people
in your life to your success and why were they important? [Pat] Oh well, I guess a lot of that
comes into tennis coaching and because a tennis coach
has become your mentors as well. I was around really good people
as well and I felt like I was learning from each of them. I felt like I had a lot of coaches
along the way that really helped. [Phone rings] Hello. [Operator] Will you accept your reverse charge
call from Tony Roche? [Pat] Is it 1800 REVERSE?
– [Operator] No. [Pat] Sorry. [Hugh] You dedicated your
1998 US Open victory to Tony Roche. Could you have done it without him? [Pat] Oh, probably.
You know, because I always feel like you’ll find a way. But Roche is like
a father figure to me as well. That’s an interesting question.
I’ve never had that question asked of me before. Very difficult to answer
but someone like Roche and I, we trained and we worked hard
together for so many years and we had such a great relationship,
that at the time, he was very instrumental to my success. [Hugh] It was with the support of his family
and surrounding himself with quality people, that Pat would shoot to number one
in the world rankings in 1999. That same year, he won
the Australian Open doubles and contributed to the Davis Cup victory
but missed the final due to injury. His shoulder injury problems
also forced him to bow out of his US Open defense that year. After surgery on his shoulder,
he came back to form beating some of the greats
making two Wimbledon finals, coming runner up on both occasions
in some classic contests. [Audience cheering]
– [Commentator] That’s it! Eventually, injuries caught up with him
and Pat retired from the game in 2002 at the age of 28. [Jack] How did you handle setbacks in your career? [Pat] You’re going to have wins
but you’re going to have a lot of losses and that’s part of the game. Every week you’re losing pretty well
so if you’re not going to get used to it, don’t play the game. Get used to it. [Hugh] Do you have to be obsessive about
what you are doing to be successful? I think to a degree, you have to have it. I think it is important to have
balance though and I was someone who looked at the bigger picture
of ‘what happens when I finish my career? What happens with my life?’ I never wanted to be someone
who was so caught up in the tiny little world of the tennis reality
that it was going to affect everything else that
happens around the world. So I know what you’re saying
but I was never someone who was totally focussed
and that was all I was going to do but… … it still was my first priority. So I felt like I struck a bit of a balance. [Hugh] And Pat did strike a balance. When his successful tennis career
was cut short due to injury, rather than fade into the background,
he’s put his likeable personality out there by continuing to promote brands
and support causes he cares about. He’s been the ambassador
for Bonds Underwear for the better part of a decade,
and over the years has endorsed brands like Dove for Men,
Lays Chips, Mantra Hotels, Kia Motors and Reebok. He’s also supported
the Starlight Foundation helping hospitalised children, spoken out
against the factory farming of animals and to this day supports other causes
through various charity matches. And he’s a natural on camera,
so why wouldn’t he. [Pat] When I was asked to talk about
new comfy Bonds Sports Socks, I thought, “Great.
I will stand around in my undies.” [Hugh] We were interested to hear his perspective
on forging a name for himself. [Pat] I think I was at a time where
there weren’t a lot of players around, I came on the scene,
I won a couple of slams and then I was, sort of,
revered a little bit more than if I had won that back in the 70s. You know, who would have just gone there’s another
good tennis player from Australia. Maybe the personality of the media
sort of made me into something bigger than what I actually was. That’s okay. [Hugh] Pat’s known for his humility but this point
about the media making him into something bigger than what he was
got us thinking. In true Pat style, we reckon
he undersold his ability to manage the media and use it to his advantage. Like we heard with the other Aussie icons
like Gerry Harvey who’s been able to leverage the press
to promote his business and Jessica Watson who shared updates
of her adventure through her blog, we reckon, Pat’s been the master
of engaging with the media and getting himself out there. He hasn’t played tennis
at the top level in years and yet he’s still relevant. There’s a bit of magic
about the way he carries himself. [Jack] Pat, you’re one of Australia’s
most loved sportsmen. Have you found the public life rewarding? [Pat] Yeah, mate, I’ve had really good,
positive feedback from the public. I always try
and be pretty honest with them. And I try and stick pretty close
to my morals that have been brought up by my parents. And if I stick to those morals
and try and be normal, live a normal life,
I find that the public really like that. I had to be careful. There was one or two occasions
where I had to work at it. Of making sure if there is a bad
or a negative publicity, trying not to be too hard of that person
and ask them and talk to them and then, you can turn media around
and once you’ve got the media on your side, it’s very hard for them to write
a negative article about you. Because everyone will say,
they’ll bag that person, you know? So I try to be honest. You know, every now and then
I stuff up like everyone does and I am in the spotlight a lot more than
probably the general person. And I am not against that. I’d prefer if I didn’t have it
but if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t also live the lifestyle I have. So you can’t… … you can’t cut something off
and abuse one side of it and say, “I want this,”
because it sort of goes hand-in-hand. The media have built up my profile
and with that comes endorsements, and sponsorships, etcetera. So I have always felt my relationship with
the media has been really good and really positive. I’ll be honest with them
and they can be honest with me and it works well. [Hugh] Pat is an Australian sporting legend. He reached the top of a competitive
international sport but he’s also been successful off the court,
leading an active public life ever since. We reckon this is in large part
down to his skills of self-promotion. He’s a master of the media game
and taught us that you’ve got to actively manage the media
to amplify your message. Everyone we met seemed
to understand this thread. Jack and I originally set off
on our mission to meet these 10 Aussie icons from different fields
because we had two unanswered questions. The first was whether there was
a common thread that ran through each of their diverse stories. And we really feel we answered this. Yes, there is a common thread. All these people dreamt big,
and where so many of us are held back for whatever reason,
these people just dived in and went for it. They were independent thinkers
who backed themselves, didn’t let the naysayers get in their way,
and achieved incredible things, inspiring people the world over. The second question we wanted answered was
whether anyone could do what they’ve done. And we reckon the answer to this
is also, yes. Whether it was reaching the top
of investment banking, or the legal profession, saving people’s lives and founding multi-billion dollar companies, or sailing around the world, training horses, starting revolutions, pioneering genres, and winning trophies, all these Aussies were just ordinary people, but they’d made the decision to go
and do extraordinary things. Thank you very much for your time today.
There’s gift there for you. Just a bit of fish oil.
You can never have enough of it. [Pat] I always take a lot of fish oil
and I am now onto Chai powder which has more Omega 3s than any of this. [Hugh] Is that right?
– [Pat] Yeah and I need some down here. [Hugh] Pat, thanks so much.
– [Pat] Thank you. [Jack] Thanks so much.
[Hugh]Alright, that’s great. Thanks so much.


  • Reply Will Minson December 21, 2017 at 1:03 am

    Pure Gold Hughey!

  • Reply The Thread December 21, 2017 at 1:09 am

    We learnt a lot from sitting down with Pat. He's humble but a competitor at the same time. He's very approachable and highly self-aware. We hope you enjoy watching the episode as much as we did. What did you think, did you learn anything from him either throughout his career or from this interview?

  • Reply admorell01 December 22, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    great series. With Pat, you said self promotion, but he was nothing but humble in the interview. It was as if by not promoting himself, the media feels the need to do it for him, which is a more effective form of self promotion.

  • Reply Beatriz Heras February 13, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    He didn´t win the Davis Cup

  • Reply MarcusGL April 6, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    I've met Pat so many times personally here in Germany at the World Team Cup in the Hotel, such a nice guy, still so disappointing for me that he lost the Wimbledon final twice

  • Reply milan4ever February 12, 2019 at 5:49 am

    My all time beloved tennis player ❤️ I adore Roger but Patrick is just the one and only 😊

  • Reply Speedy Pete July 22, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Tactically, Patrick was a bit of a one trick pony. Most players need at least a couple of tactical options.

  • Reply ArseneWenger July 26, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    My biggest regret is Pat not winning one Wimbledon. I swear he had Pete in those 1st 2 sets and lost his nerve. I've not followed tennis since his retirement.

  • Reply pidoos pidu September 25, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    One amongst the favourite of all times rafter though he was a bit unlucky. Memories!

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