Sydney, 13 November 2010 | ATP

Pat Rafter produced his best performance of the year to defeat ATP Champions Tour leader Thomas Enqvist, and move closer to a final clash with John McEnroe at the Champions Downunder event in Sydney.

With 5,000 fans cheering his every winning shot, Rafter triumphed in a thrilling final set Champions’ tie-break, 6-7(3) 6-2 [10-8].

Meanwhile, McEnroe continued his fabulous form, dismissing Pat Cash for the loss of only four games – 6-1 6-3.

If Rafter can fight off Goran Ivanisevic on Saturday, Rafter and McEnroe will clash in Sunday’s final.

As the scoreline of the match suggests, the first set of Rafter vs. Enqvist was a close affair, and when the Swede took it 7-3 on a tie-break, it appeared likely that he would go on to win just as he had in 29 of his 31 ATP Champions Tour matches to-date.

Rafter served and volleyed throughout, leaving the crowd mesmerised and his opponent on the back-foot in the second set, winning it 6-2.

It was a sweet victory for Rafter in front of his home fans, and enabled him to avenge a straight sets loss to Enqvist in Chengdu, China a few weeks earlier.

“Thomas is the man to beat on the Tour at the moment so this is an awesome result for me,” said Rafter.

“It was a great match to be involved in and hopefully a great match for all the people that came out here to watch us. The crowd tonight were unbelievable and I’m sure that helped me on the big points. I’m really loving playing in Australia in front of home fans again.”

Enqvist was disappointed with the result, but enjoyed the experience as a whole.

“It’s such a pleasure to play with Pat,” he said. “

I love to see serve and volley tennis on the court because you don’t see it that much anymore. So even though I lost I had a great time. The crowd was awesome and Australia is the best place in the world to play tennis so you can’t ask for much more than that.”

Earlier in the day, McEnroe had been in sublime form against Cash, who received treament during the match. The American will now meet Mats Wilander in the final group match, but looks almost certain to reach the final.

“I’m really happy,” said McEnroe.

“It was really hot out there and I didn’t know if Pat was going to be able to keep going so that’s a tough situation to know what to do with and it’s easy to get a little tentative. All things considered I think I was hitting the ball well and I felt good. Mats gets a lot of balls back so I’ll have to play within myself but I’m feeling good about my chances of getting to the final.”