Dubai World No.44 Radek Stepanek said he was excited by the prospect of facing Roger Federer in the second round of the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open after overcoming Michael Russell on Tuesday.
The 35-year-old Czech bounced back from 5-7, 2-3 down to eventually win 5-7, 6-3, 6-1, securing a date with the 17-time Grand Slam winning Swiss, against whom he’s only won twice in 14 previous appearances.
“It’s always a great challenge playing against one of the best players of all time,” said Stepanek. “I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve played with Roger in many matches, it has always been great tennis and I will do my best against him again tomorrow [Wednesday].”
Federer won his first round match against Germany’s Benjamin Becker 6-1, 6-4 on Monday. The World No.8 played with such confidence that he even deployed a hotdog lob at 2-3 down in the second set. His signature move fired up the fans and inspired the record five-time Dubai Men’s Open champion to fight back for straight set victory.
“You always have to expect the best from him,” added Stepanek. ”You definitely have to hold your serves to have an opportunity to break Roger’s and put him under pressure a little. You just have to be there all of the time, try to play aggressively and wait for the chances.”
Stepanek didn’t see the match as he has been in bed recovering from a fever, but he said he had been studying changes in the Swiss’ game since working with new coach and former player Stefan Edberg of Sweden.
“Since he [Federer] has started working with Stefan – he’s coming more to the net again. I’ve seen that change and I have to be ready for it,” added Stepanek.
The Czech veteran also said his vast experience with his country’s back-to-back Davis Cup winning team would prepare him for the pressure of a big-name encounter. “Those Davis Cup matches are a beautiful history and you definitely take those experiences with you,” he said.
“The best experience is to play the toughest matches under the biggest possible pressure as that’s what makes you stronger.
“I know I’ve played a few of those in my career and I’m trying to take those experiences with me on a daily basis. It’s not going to be any different tomorrow [Wednesday].”