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Rafter, Sabatini elected to Tennis Hall of Fame

The players were joined in the Hall of Fame by Italian playwright and tennis writer Gianni Clerici.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2006 10:02 IST

US Open champions Pat Rafter and Gabriela Sabatini have been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, the organisation said at the Australian Open on Monday.

Australia's Rafter won back-to-back US Open titles in 1997 and 1998 and was a former world number one. He also made successive Wimbledon finals in 2000 and 2001.

"Well, for me it came around rather quickly," Rafter told reporters in Melbourne. "When I was told I was up for nomination, I was surprised actually.

"It was such a big honour. I probably thought it would be later, I guess."

Sabatini, who won the US Open title in 1990 and was in the women's top-10 for a decade, is the second Argentine elected to the Hall, which is based in Newport, Rhode Island.

Guillermo Villas is the only other Argentine in the Hall.

"The majority of my life has revolved around tennis so it is a very special honour to be elected, especially when you look at all the great names of champions that have been elected over the years," Sabatini said in a statement.

"It's the greatest honour for a tennis player and will be forever special in my life."

The players were joined in the Hall of Fame by Italian playwright and tennis writer Gianni Clerici.

Clerici, who has reported on more than 170 grand slam tournaments, began his journalism career in 1956.

Biographer of French tennis icon Suzanne Lenglen, Clerici was also awarded the Prix Vallecorsi -- Italian Playwright of the Year -- in 1987.

"Well, it was a surprise they didn't give it to me earlier," Clerici told laughing reporters in Melbourne.

"Yes, yes, I say to myself absentminded, those guys. So finally.

"But I must say I've been elected in the best three we could have, according to beautiness.

"When we are going to have Gabriela, too, side by side with us, we'll be the most beautiful," Clerici added.

First Published: Jan 23, 2006 10:02 IST