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For the third straight match, eighth-seeded Radek Stepanek (pictured) rallied from behind to win, this time upsetting third-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, to claim the Brisbane International title in Australia on Sunday. Stepanek now owns three career ATP singles titles, having already raised the champion’s trophy in Rotterdam in 2006 and Los Angeles in 2007.
The 30-year-old Czech veteran, who is currently ranked No. 26 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, got off to a slow start in the serving department, making just 29 percent of first serves in the opening set. However, he quickly gained momentum in the second set by breaking Verdasco’s serve in the fourth game of the set, which ultimately led him to win the second set and take a commanding 4-1 lead in the final set. Verdasco, the Davis Cup hero for Spain in last year’s championship win against Argentina, broke serve then held his own to cut the lead to 4-3. Having a chance to break serve and even the match at 4-4, Verdasco lost that chance and eventually the game when Stepanek used a tricky drop shot to deny the Spaniard another break of serve. Stepanek, currently coached by former Australian Open champion Petr Korda, closed out the match on his own serve. Despite making 86 percent of first serves and winning 64 percent of those points, Verdasco only managed to break serve twice compared to three times by Stepanek.
“It’s my third title and my first tournament of the new season,” explained Stepanek. “I have the trophy, so I can’t find the words right now. I’m very happy with the way I played this week; I fought from the first point to the last point in every match. Three times I came back from a set down. I played very good tennis and here is the reward for it.”
Stepanek, currently the boyfriend of WTA Tour star Nicole Vaidisova, improves to 3-0 lifetime against the 25-year-old Spaniard after his victory in front of a jam-packed crowd of 5,500 at the Patrick Rafter Arena at the new $82 million Queensland Tennis Center. Stepanek earned a champion’s paycheck of $77,200 by winning the Brisbane title. Verdasco, who now holds a 2-5 record in ATP singles finals, earned a finalist paycheck of $40,500.