Apart from being the oldest player in the singles draw, Stepanek distinguished himself in another way. After initiating a point, he often headed immediately to the net: "serve and volleying," they called it in the old days. Also, during the course of a point, Stepanek left the security of the baseline and boldly headed toward the net, hitting the ball before it bounced. By "volleying," so to speak, he was able to hit high-percentage shot from an advantageous position. He was also able to induce errors from Monfils by pressuring him. These old-school tactics worked so well, it's a wonder why other players don't try to adopt them!
"I wanted to be in control of the match, be the boss on the court, the one who is deciding what's going on," Stepanek told reporters after winning his fifth career title and climbing to No. 27. "I was aggressive from the first point to the last one."
At the Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad, Calif., the 22-year-old was in full effect in winning her first title since 2008. After rallying from one set down to win in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, Radwanska defeated (like-sized) Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday's final.
"I was very surprised that I didn't lose my serve," said Radwanska, who, like Stepanek, won her fifth career title. "It was actually pretty impressive."
Said the top-seeded Zvonareva: "Her serve wasn't causing me too much trouble, but it was very different from my last two opponents. I didn't get a chance to adjust. I couldn't find my rhythm on the return and so I couldn't put enough pressure [on her]."
After an injury withdrawal, Isner did indeed get into the main draw. Still, the question persists: Especially for a high-stakes Masters event -- first-round losers get almost $9,000 -- is it fair that players otherwise undeserving are given coveted main draw slots simply because, by accident of birth, they hail from the host country? Doesn't this enrage the rank and file? Isn't it unfair to players from countries like Germany, Argentina and Japan whose countries don't hold big-ticket events? One of the spoils of hosting a tournament is the right to install a few of "your" players who might sell tickets or generate buzz. Fine. But shouldn't there be a rankings cap?
Over the weekend one of the Canadian wild cards, 257th-ranked Philip Bester, withdrew with an injury. His slot went to Ernests Gulbis, the erratic Latvian who won the Farmers Classic title in Los Angeles on July 31 and upset Roger Federer last year. This
Credit tournament director Eugene Lapierre for taking a stand here.
"We want the players to play at a certain caliber," he told tennis writer Tom Tebbutt (whose