Mon, Jan 12, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Radek Stepanek earns Brisbane crown

CZECH, MATE In a warmup tournament ahead of the Australian Open later this month, Radek Stepanek used drop shots to wear down his Fernando Verdasco of Spain

AFP , BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA

Left: Fernando Verdasco of Spain celebrates after winning a point in his loss to Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic in the men’s final of the Brisbane International in Brisbane, Australia, yesterday. Right: Stepanek reacts after winning a point on the way to defeating Verdasco in Brisbane yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

The Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek came from a set down to upset second seed Fernando Verdasco 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Brisbane International tennis tournament yesterday.

The high-quality match lasted two-and-a-quarter hours and was a fitting climax to the first tournament played at the new Queensland Tennis Center.

It was the third match in a row that Stepanek had to recover from a first set deficit to defeat a higher-ranked opponent following three-set wins over Robin Soderling in the quarter-finals and Richard Gasquet in the semis.

As he did against both Soderling and Gasquet, the eighth-seeded Stepanek started slowly, dropping his first service game and quickly finding himself 3-0 down.

He managed only a 29 percent success rate with his first serves during the opening set but somehow got through the remainder of the set dropping just the one service game.

Stepanek lifted his serve in the second two sets and began to pressure Verdasco, moving him around the court and not letting him establish any rhythm.

He used the drop shot with great effect, bringing Verdasco forward at almost every opportunity.

“Part of the game plan today was to move him around the court and it worked pretty well,” the 30-year-old Stepanek said. “Since I was young I’ve loved to play drop shots and move people around the court. I’ve been destroying the rhythm of my opponents since I was a kid and I’m still doing that today.”

Stepanek broke the Spaniard in the fourth game of the second set and held on to send the match into a decider.

He got away to the best possible start in the third, breaking Verdasco in the opening game and again in the fifth to open up a 4-1 lead.

But Verdasco broke back immediately and held his serve to get back to 3-4.

The Spaniard then had a break point in the next game to get back to 4-4 but couldn’t convert and an increasingly confident Stepanek went on to claim the third ATP title of his career.

“I knew that I had to stay positive because I’ve played Fernando [two times] and both matches were pretty tight,” he said. “I was fighting to the last point and I knew that as the match was going the distance I was getting better and better. I was starting to feel physically on a high and I knew I would [be able to] spend hours on the court just to get the trophy.”

In men’s doubles, Marc Gicquel and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France defeated Fernando Verdasco of Spain and Mischa Zverev of Germany, 6-4, 6-3.

■HOBART INTERNATIONAL

AFP, HOBART

Tournament second seed Patty Schnyder was bounced out of the Hobart WTA International in the first round yesterday.

Unseeded Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, 21, outplayed the Swiss world No. 15, 6-2, 6-4.

Schnyder, 30, earned a code violation for unsportsmanlike behavior late in the second set for audible obscenities following a prolonged argument with the chair umpire over a line call.

It was one of several clashes Schnyder had with chair umpire Kerrilyn Kramer.

Pironkova rattled Schnyder with her big serving game.

“I’ve only had two or three top 20 wins so it’s a big win for me,” the world No.43 said.

Yesterday’s other first round winners were Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, Czech Iveta Benesova and Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko.

■QATAR OPEN

AFP, DOHA AND SYDNEY,AUSTRALIA

Andy Murray heads to the Australian Open with the weight of 73 years of desperate British Grand Slam history on his shoulders and still haunted by the bitter memory of last year’s experience in the Melbourne sun.

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