Radek Stepanek came into the Legg Mason Tennis Classic a travel-weary man. In the previous week, he played in Hamburg, Germany, flew home to the Czech Republic, flew to the United States, drove from one Florida coast to the other and then flew here to the District.
Just writing that sentence requires energy — so imagine living that and then playing a tennis tournament.
“It was a very quick week,” Stepanek said. “I came here pretty tired from all of this.”
Stepanek certainly didn’t look tired Saturday afternoon as he crushed upstart American Donald Young 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals.
“We have saying that the winner is never tired,” he said with a smile.
Stepanek dismissed Young in straight sets not because either guy was fresher but because he’s 32 years old and was able to dictate the pace of play. Having played three lefties in a row this week (Wayne Odesnik, Jarkko Nieminen and Fernando Verdasco), he also felt more prepared to play the 22-year-old Young.
Even so, the veteran had to make an adjustment after the first two games of the match to balance out Young’s lefty serve.
“I had control of the match in my hands,” Stepanek said, “and that’s how it was until the last point.”
“He’s a veteran. … He’s played a lot longer than me,” Young said. “He just took me out of my game, pretty much.”
Both players admitted Stepanek brought a different style into this match. Playing aggressively, he frustrated Young, which was part of the game plan.
“Once you get your opponent out of his comfort zone, out of his rhythm, definitely it helps you. You have to get the opponent to this position, and that’s what I was working on from the first point,” Stepanek said. “When I got him there, I was trying to keep him off balance for the rest of the match, and I did it well.”
He did it in just over an hour, so it didn’t sap Stepanek of too much energy. He’ll face top-seeded Gael Monfils, who deafeated No. 11 John Isner 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (6), in the final Sunday.
“I already played so many matches,” Stepanek said. “With every match, the confidence is growing.”