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

7/22/2007 - Tennis

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

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.