By Lee Goodall in Ostrava
At 33 years, 2 months and 14 days young, Radek Stepanek was the oldest of all 32 players contesting World Group singles matches around the globe on Friday. The next oldest was Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic, who turns 33 later this month.
Stepanek, the right-hander from Karvina, on the Polish border in the north-east of the country, has enjoyed a hugely successful career. ‘Steps’, as he’s known, is the current world No. 30, has banked over $7 million in prize money, has five ATP trophies on the shelf, peaked at a career-high ranking of No. 8 in 2006 and, in January, claimed his first Grand Slam trophy alongside India’s Leander Paes.
On Friday, Stepanek scored his 21st Davis Cup victory by beating Italy’s No. 1 Andreas Seppi - a man six years his junior - in five grueling sets. And that victory came despite the veteran of the tour waking at 5am with a fever and finally getting out of bed early on Friday afternoon. So how exactly does he manage it?
“There’s a lot of hard work behind it,” he said after spending 3 hours 50 minutes on court. “Also I believe it’s the style of the game I’m playing because I’m trying to attack, trying to close the points at the net, playing serve and volley, trying to mix the rhythm and destroy the rhythm of my opponent.
“I’m also taking care of my body. I’m trying to use every possible way to take care of myself in the right way and to give myself the chance even at this nice age!
“I try to do a little bit [of training] every single day. [Also] it’s a combination of nutrition, but also of the experience from over the years - how to practice because I can’t practice like a 20-year-old. And a great team - great coach, conditioning coach and doctor.”
By David Hein in Bamberg
There was a bit of football goodwill at the Davis Cup tie between Germany and Argentina on Saturday.
Argentina have been supported here in Bamberg by a small group of 50 or so fans, who according to David Nalbandian sometimes sound like thousands. And those Gaucho supporters have been a huge help for the 2011 Davis Cup finalists. The Argentine players on Saturday were asked by those fans before the doubles rubber for a couple of pictures and new Argentine captain Martin Jaite’s men were happy to oblige.
There was one slight issue for Juan Monaco though. Argentina’s No. 1 is a passionate supporter of La Plata football club Estudiantes. And one of the fans was wearing a shirt from heated city rivals Gimnasia y Esgrima. The La Plata city showdown is one of the most fiercely contested derbies in Argentine football with the first official Platense derby dating back to August 27, 1916.
The Argentina fan and Gimnasia supporter asked Monaco if he would dare have his picture taken with one of his football rivals. Monaco swallowed his football pride and said, of course, and put his arm around the fan.
Nis is Janko’s kind of place
By Zoran Milosavljevic in Nis
Janko Tipsarevic is happy to be playing Davis Cup in Nis. Apparently, so are the Swedes.
Tipsarevic, who is from Belgrade, told the media after his opening win over Sweden's Filip Prpic on Friday that he’s tried to persuade Serbian tennis officials to entrust Serbia's southern city of Nis with hosting a Davis Cup tie for some time.
The fan turnout in the opening two days of Serbia's World Group first round tie with Sweden made it clear why, in no uncertain terms, Tipsarevic was right to want to play in Nis. Both days drew a sellout 4,000 crowd, which roared in favour of the home team, but also applauded every winning shot a resilient Swedish team produced to win Saturday's doubles, keeping alive the captivating tie in the superbly refurbished Cair Hall through Sunday.
"Playing in front of a sportsmanlike crowd like this one is a real pleasure and we were really motivated by their support for the home team, because it inspired us to play our best tennis," Sweden's Johan Brunstrom told reporters after he and Robert Lindstedt clinched the enthralling five-setter against home crowd favourites Nenad Zimonjic and Tipsarevic in 4 hours 9 minutes.
There is not a shadow of a doubt that Sunday's reverse singles will be just as entertaining and having lit up this Davis Cup tie, a gripping climax to the contest will be no more than the electrifying Nis crowd deserves.
Will Monfils play on Sunday?
By Jeff Patterson in Vancouver
Although Gael Monfils sat out the opening day of the Davis Cup tie between Canada and France, the No. 13 ranked Frenchman looks ready to play should he be called upon by French captain Guy Forget on Sunday.
On Friday, Monfils spent a half-hour warming up teammate Julien Benneteau on the court at the Thunderbird Winter Sports Centre and showed no signs of a nagging right knee injury that has bothered him for the past week. After Thursday's draw, Forget claimed Monfils was eighty percent healthy and remained a possibility for reverse singles on Sunday.
Time will tell…
Bernie’s Beemer goes under the hammer
By Suzi Petkovski in Geelong
Australian tennis went 1-0 up on the eve of the Davis Cup clash with China here at the Geelong Lawn Tennis Club, even before the players took to the grass court. Not because a miracle cure was found for Lleyton Hewitt’s battered big left toe, but the next best thing: Bernard Tomic has decided to sell his trouble-magnet BMW.
The Aussie spearhead is due in court in his home state of Queensland on Tuesday to answer traffic charges stemming from a stand-off with Gold Coast police on January 26. This followed brushes with traffic cops late last year, when the 19-year-old claimed victimisation by his local force.
Tomic’s fire-orange BMW M3 coupe is one of only 50 in the country. According to Beemer sources in Melbourne, Tomic’s name was high on the waiting list when the model was released late in 2010. The beast V8 engine goes from 0 to 100kph in 4.8 seconds, and reaches speeds in excess of 300 kmh.
Teenage P-platers (probationary drivers) like Bernard are not permitted to own high-performance vehicles but the Aussie No. 1 was given a special dispensation to drive the car for tennis activities. Police allege he was cruising the Broadbeach strip on Australia Day with girlfriend Donay Meijer, not driving to or from practice. One media report had Tomic telling police he was out buying strings.
For Australian tennis, the car drama has revived less-than-happy memories of Mark Philippoussis and his vehicular fetish, which included a look-at-me yellow Lamborghini. At one point, the Scud owned more sports cars than tennis titles.
Aussie captain Pat Rafter had just finished heaping praise on his teenage charge while announcing the team to face China during the Australian Open. “I was very critical of him last year,” Rafter admitted. “He wasn’t in the right head space. [But] he really impressed me over this summer. He’s just gone to a different level.” On the very same day, Bernard had his latest brush with the law. Alas, the new-found maturity didn’t extend to his driving habits.
But just days before the tie, the offending Beemer went under the hammer at a Brisbane auction house. Tomic surrendered it complete with personalised plates, BT021 (his birthdate is October 21), and also threw in a few autographed tennis snaps. The car has less than 7000km on the clock and is loaded up with extras, including automatic seatbelt extenders. A bid of $145,000 was rejected by the Tomic family, who want close to $200,000. The car’s notoriety could be enough to fetch it.
Whatever the sale price, Australian tennis is breathing a sigh of relief that its No. 1 star is steering his tennis career in the right direction.