Davis Cup: Lionheart Stepanek stars in Czech passion play

Updated: 18 November 2013 09:10 IST

Stepanek, ranked 44 for singles and nine for doubles, used his specific style, including changing rhythm, dropshots and volleys throughout the weekend, saying he "played in the best form of his life."

Davis Cup: Lionheart Stepanek stars in Czech passion play

Belgrade:

Triumphant after handing the Czech Republic its second successive Davis Cup with a stylish win, Radek Stepanek said he drew strength from passion for the competition he had wanted to play since he was a child.

"I love to play the Davis Cup from the first moment," Stepanek said after making history as the first player ever to win two decisive fifth rubbers in two consecutive Davis Cup finals.

"It is a very unique competition. It has so much history. And it is the only occasion to play in front of our fans," he added after trashing Serbian youngster Dusan Lajovic.

Stepanek, ranked 44 for singles and nine for doubles, used his specific style, including changing rhythm, dropshots and volleys throughout the weekend, saying he "played in the best form of his life."

"We became legends today. We are one of only five teams that have defended the cup," he said to a standing ovation from a large group of Czech fans in Belgrade.

Stepanek formed a perfect team with seventh-ranked Tomas Berdych in 2007.

They have won 14 of their 15 Davis Cup doubles rubbers together and led the Czech Republic to three finals in five years and to nine straight wins in Davis Cup ties.

Turning 35 on November 27, Stepanek voiced admiration for a team led by Ivan Lendl, which lifted the trophy for former Czechoslovakia in 1980.

"The inspiration came when I was a kid. I saw the TV spots from 1980 when the team won for the first time. And these pictures, I've had them in my head my whole life," he said.

Popular among fans for his colourful playing style, involving wild fist-pumping and jumps of all sorts, Stepanek beat Nicolas Almagro of Spain in the fifth final rubber of the 2012 final before a home crowd in Prague.

He took a break from the competition with a back injury that ruled him out of the first-round tie in Switzerland and allowed him to only play the doubles rubber in Kazakhstan.

But he was back in shape for a semi-final tie with Argentina in Prague and topped up the season with the win in Belgrade.

"If somebody told me the week after my surgery that I would be sitting here winning the fifth rubber... I would be laughing at him," he said.

"But it's a passion for the game. I love it and I want to play it as long as I can, as long as my body holds, and I will be enjoying every minute of it."

Stepanek, once engaged to ex-Grand Slam queen Martina Hingis, made the headlines earlier this year when he split with his wife, former world number seven Nicole Vaidisova, and started dating current world number six Petra Kvitova.

As usual, Stepanek sported an original T-shirt in Belgrade, one that he designed himself for the Davis Cup.

And while his game was almost spotless, the blue shirt with a big lion design on the front, a symbol of his country, complete with the state emblem, sparked some criticism.

Unimpressed, Andy Murray's mother Judy called the outfit "staggeringly bad" on Saturday.

"Yes, yes I know it's his lucky shirt. That doesn't make it any less bad," she added on Twitter.

Stepanek said he might have a word with her soon and explain the symbolic.

"I always want to fight like a lion," he said.

"I like this motif because it has a certain story, it expresses my emotions and what I feel towards the competition."

Topics : Tennis Radek Stepanek
Related Articles
IPTL 2016: Indian Aces Beat Singapore Slammers 24-19
IPTL 2016: Indian Aces Beat Singapore Slammers 24-19
All Top Stars Confirmed For Australian Open
All Top Stars Confirmed For Australian Open
Boris Becker Criticises Novak Djokovic Following Split
Boris Becker Criticises Novak Djokovic Following Split
Show Comments
Advertisement