Czech tennis player Radek Štěpánek enjoying successful start to year

Radek Štěpánek, photo: CTK

The Czech tennis player Radek Štěpánek is so far having a fantastic 2009. He had taken two singles titles in his whole 13-year professional career prior to this season. However, since the start of January the in-form 30-year-old has won two more titles, missing out on a third when he was beaten in the final of the Memphis Championship on Sunday.

Radek Štěpánek, photo: CTK
The Czech men’s number one Radek Štěpánek literally couldn’t have had a better start to 2009, when he won his first tournament of the year, the Brisbane Open. That success was followed by another ATP title in San Jose earlier this month, meaning he has – in the space of just a few weeks – doubled his career titles tally in singles tennis to four.

On Sunday Štěpánek just missed out on another trophy, when Andy Roddick beat him 7-5 7-5 in the final of the Memphis Championship. Given the Czech’s form, the organisers could perhaps be forgiven for accidentally handing him the winner’s trophy.

But why are things going so well for Štěpánek at the moment? That’s a question I put to Jan Janoch, tennis correspondent for the newspaper Sport.

"Radek himself says that his training in Florida after the winter season went extremely well. He also says he benefited from changing the make of racquet that he uses, on the recommendation of his coach Petr Korda. What’s more Korda said yesterday that Radek now listens to 60 percent of what he says, compared to 40 percent in the past. Korda thinks that’s why his results have improved so much.”

Štěpánek’s real test will surely come in Grand Slam tournaments. The first of the season, the Australian Open, didn’t go well, with the Czech suffering a drubbing in the third round. So is he capable of capitalising on his success in lesser tournaments and doing better at the remaining three Grand Slams this year? Jan Janoch:

“Given his current form I think it’s possible. They are of course the toughest arenas, where a tennis player has to make his mark. For a long time Radek hasn’t done well at Grand Slams – he’s reached only one quarter-final, at Wimbledon. But given how he’s playing now, he could reach another quarter-final or even a semi-final, if he gets a good draw and avoids difficult opponents.”

After getting to the final in Memphis, Radek Štěpánek has climbed to 16 in the world rankings. Czech tennis fans will be hoping he can now go on to equal, or even surpass, his career-best ranking off 11th which he reached in 2006.