- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2011

With rain falling for much of the afternoon and evening Saturday, one semifinal match at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic didn’t get started until almost 11 p.m. Top-seeded Gael Monfils and No. 11 John Isner played in front of a sparse crowd in Rock Creek Park for a spot in the finals.

Unseeded Radek Stepanek many hours earlier made quick work of Donald Young. Asked after Sunday’s final if he stayed up to watch Monfils vs. Isner, Stepanek gave a candid answer.

“Honestly,” he said, “I fell asleep at 9:30.”

That’s probably for the best. Stepanek was well-rested and took advantage of Monfils’ fatigue on the way to a 6-4, 6-4 victory and the championship.

Monfils and Isner played until well after midnight, and the 24-year-old Frenchman admitted feeling the effects of the late match and having to take part in two on Friday.

“I think I was a fraction slower,” Monfils said. “To be honest I’m unlucky. Today I finish at 1:15 a.m. … I never had a chance to get a good rest.”

Monfils got to sleep at 4, woke up at 11:20 a.m. Sunday and was back on the court soon after. He said he forgot about the fatigue when stepping onto the court, but it was hard to disguise that.

Stepanek is an aggressive player but he took it up a notch in the final, charging the net on several points and taking Monfils out of his rhythm. That was no accident.

“I wanted to be in the control of the match, be the boss on the court – the one that’s deciding whats going on,” Stepanek said. “I wanted to have the match in my hands.”

It was, as the 32-year-old Czech Republic native won 52 of 56 service games and, as Monfils said, Stepanek “didn’t miss much.”

But Stepanek also admitted that a lot of good things need to happen to win a tournament. Despite having to play six matches, the schedule was on his side. And it played a role in preventing Monfils from walking away with the trophy.

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