Stepanek beats No. 2 seed Blake en route to second career title

Updated: July 22, 2007, 9:47 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Radek Stepanek upset second-seeded James Blake 7-6 (7), 5-7, 6-2 to win the ATP Countrywide Classic on Sunday.

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It was the second career title for Stepanek, who entered the match with a 13-15 record this season. He advanced to the final when wild card Nicolas Kiefer of Germany withdrew due to a sore knee.

Stepanek, a native of the Czech Republic, saved three set points in the first set against Blake.

"He moves in to the net very well and volleys very well," Blake said. "My game plan a lot of times was to try take the net away and make him come up with passing shots."

Stepanek, who's engaged to women's tennis star Martina Hingis, won his first career title at Rotterdam last year before he suffered a dislocated disk in his neck that temporarily left him without the use of his right arm.

The 28-year-old sat out the rest of the year, exercising and hoping he would regain use of the arm, and had struggled during his comeback before arriving in Los Angeles.

"The feeling [of winning] is different," said Stepanek, who was No. 8 in the world before his injury. "I know what I went through, it was a tough time in my career, so this title means a lot more than first one. Emotionally it means much more."

After failing to reach the quarters in his first 14 events this year, Stepanek reached the semifinals last week in Switzerland.

Blake was trying for his 10th career title and first since winning in Sydney earlier this year.

Stepanek broke Blake twice in the final set, including the last game of the match.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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