Dubai: Czech Republic veteran Radek Stepanek has a Davis Cup hat-trick in his sights as he nears a possible end to his glorious career.
Stepanek has been drawn to play American Michael Russell in the singles first round at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open, while he will team up with Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro in the doubles as his regular partner Leander Paes is out injured this week.
While he will be striving to make an impression individually, the 35-year-old is also hoping to continue success with the Czech Republic team who defended their Davis Cup crown last November.
In the final against a Novak Djokovic-led Serbia, Stepanek won the doubles and the deciding singles match to propel the Czech Republic to victory.
In the process, Stepanek created his own little bit of history by becoming the first person in Davis Cup history to win consecutive live deciding singles.
“Winning it [the Davis Cup] twice in a row and winning the important match twice at 2-2 in the decider is something you are dreaming of when you are a kid, and, until today, when I’m talking about it, I still get goosebumps. It’s a really amazing feeling. We made history in our country and there are not much better moments in my career than to win the Davis Cup,” he said.
“Defending our title and to go for a hat-trick would be nice, but we know how difficult it is. With two guys – Tomas [Berdych] and I – playing most of the time, it’s very tough mentally and physically. But, we have a ten-match winning streak – which is really encouraging – and, as long as we can keep going, it will be great.”
Stepanek — famous for dating former women’s world number one Martina Hingis in the past — insisted that he is keen to improve on his rankings in the singles. After starting off as a doubles specialist, at one stage he had a career-best ranking of No 8 in the singles and No 4 in the doubles.
His first major doubles success was the doubles crown at the 2012 Australian Open with veteran Indian star Leander Paes.
A year later Stepanek again teamed up with his Indian partner to defeat the Bryan brothers in the semi-finals and the pair of Bruno Soares and Alexander Peya in the final of the US Open.
“The most important thing is how you feel yourself and as long as I can keep up with the best and play with them, then I’ll be playing. I’m feeling physically fit, so there’s no reason to think about something else. I’m not thinking about my age once I step on the court or even outside of it. Age for me and my partner [Paes] is only a number and we can cope with that,” he said.