Sunshine Coast, Queensland, 11 November 2013 | Matt Richards

Australian tennis legend and Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter headlined a tremendous opening weekend of the 2013 Asia-Pacific Tennis League, Queensland Conference.

A capacity crowd of 1500 people were on hand at the Kawana Tennis Club to cheer on the Sunshine Coast Breakers team as they took on the 2012 conference champions the Tennis Brisbane Chargers.

Rafter opened proceedings on centre court against impressive 21-year-old Gavin van Peperzeel. A blistering start from van Peperzeel caught Rafter off guard and a forehand winner clinched the first set for van Peperzeel, 4-1.

However, the two time Grand Slam champion wouldn’t be denied. Rafter lifted his game in the second set, more often working his way into net and finding a rhythm on his return of serve. One service break was enough to tie the match at one set all.

The beginning of the third set signalled the highest quality tennis of the match, with Rafter winning the crucial points to take the victory for the Breakers 1-4 4-2 4-1.

The healthy crowd was thrilled to see a trademark backhand smash winner and “sorry mate” on a misguided ball toss during the match.

Following his singles victory Rafter teamed with Breakers teammate Simon Merrin to defeat van Peperzeel and Michael Look  4-0 2-4 [10-7] to put the Chargers ahead 3-2 on rubbers.

Yet in the decisive doubles match Robert Smeets and Kaden Hensel withstood the pressure from Breakers players Andrew Kratzmann and Peter Tramacchi to win 4-3(4) 4-3(4) and clinch the tie for the Chargers.

Rafter thoroughly enjoyed his one-off appearance in the league and spoke very highly of the standard of competition.

“I was totally blasted off the court at first,” he said.

“Credit to Gavin; he played very well and I was certainly impressed with his game. He is a great athlete and I enjoyed spending some time with him after the match to offer him a few pointers.”

Rafter enjoyed the concept and the support of the Breakers fans.

“It is a little bit of a lottery with the shortened format but that really makes you focus on the big points and is exciting for the crowd. I certainly enjoyed it.”

The league’s Queensland conference was launched on Friday night at the Shaw Park Tennis Centre, with more than 600 people on hand to support the Shaw Park Sharks as the home team.

Pat Rafter ATL