Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hmm The Romance Trail

So visitors seem to not have enough of the Radek-Martina romance as evident from visit statistics!

Just to keep those 'taste buds' nibbling. :P


The big shot

Radek Štěpánek is first Czech in three years to enter top 10 after quarterfinal run at Wimbledon

By František Bouc
Staff Writer, The Prague Post
July 19, 2006

Before starting his sixth season on the ATP Tour in January, Radek Štěpánek had two goals: to win his first tournament and to make it into the top 10 of the tour's rankings.

Seven months later, he's accomplished both.

The 27-year-old from Karviná, north Moravia, met his first goal by winning an indoor tournament in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in February. A quarterfinal run at Wimbledon in July took Štěpánek, nicknamed 'Steps,' to eighth place on the ATP rankings.

"The work has been done, I can start improvising now," Štěpánek joked.
Štěpánek is the first Czech tennis player to reach the top 10 of the ATP Tour in three years and is emerging as the answer to the question: "Whatever happened to Czech tennis?"

And while he is by no means satisfied with meeting this year's goals — Štěpánek wants to keep moving up the rankings — he also knows there's a lot of work left to do.

"I'd like to explore my limits," he said. "I know that I've still got lots of things to improve in my game."

One of those things is certainly his composure during pivotal moments in matches.

In his quarterfinal match at Wimbledon against Swedish veteran player Jonas Björkman, Štěpánek was up two sets to one and serving for the match at 5–4, but he shocked the crowd with three double faults in that game. He never recovered.

"I just choked at the crucial moment," Štěpánek said after the match. The idea of "advancing to the semifinals at Wimbledon was overwhelming."

Slow starter

Štěpánek's career has been something of a slow burner. He made his debut on the ATP Tour in 1998 but didn't appear in a Grand Slam event until 2002. He played in 18 Grand Slams since but, until this year, never made it past the third round.

Štěpánek insists his recent rise is the result of surrounding himself with what he calls "the right people."

In 2001, Štěpánek was wallowing below 500 in the rankings, and many people wrote him off. But not Petr Korda, who won the 1998 Australian Open and is the country's last Grand Slam champion.

At the time, "He told me that I had the potential to be ranked in the top 10, and I told him that he was crazy. ...Well, after four and a half years of working with him, he turned out to be right," Štěpánek said.

Korda is now Štěpánek's mentor. Though Korda doesn't tour with Štěpánek, the two often talk on the phone during tournaments.

"I practice with him occasionally, and I frequently call him for advice. ... He was a champion player; his advice is priceless," Štěpánek said.

Another person who helped Štěpánek is Czech-born Swiss tennis star Martina Hingis. The couple has lived together for around six months, and Štěpánek credits much of his recent success to their relationship.

"I'm happy outside the court, so it makes life on the court easier, too," he said.

(the interesting bit)

Bart Simpson of the court

Štěpánek's success is rejuvenating Czech tennis, which has gone downhill since the heydays of Martina Navrátilová and Ivan Lendl. Not only is Štěpánek the first Czech man in three years to make it into the top 10, he is only the sixth to do so.

His success comes at just the right time, said professional coach Zdeněk Žofka.

"Tennis here is recovering, and Štěpánek's example shows young players that Czech players can still succeed," he said.

Štěpánek is nevertheless not the perfect role model. Last year, he left the Czech Davis Cup team to focus on the tour and said he won't return.

"The Davis Cup looks like a closed chapter for me," he said.

His on-court behavior is also often controversial. Štěpánek's antics inspired The Daily Telegraph to describe him as the Bart Simpson of the tennis court.

Štěpánek isn't very concerned about this, though.

"I don't think that I've changed for the worse, but I had to change my approach to improve my game," he said. "I had to become more of an introvert. I can't keep joking around like I used to."



And to round it off a nice picture of Martina from aluytenuk's Gallery on Flickr:


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