Radek Stepanek, who lost a third-round match at the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic, talks to The Tennis Space:
How was it out there today? Always playing the best guy in the world is special, it’s always challenging.
How was it to be back here as a defending doubles champion? Definitely because I was in the situation for the first time in my life as a defending champion at a Grand Slam tournament. We were happy to be back on the court again. When we said with Leander Paes we were going to try and win Grand Slams, I knew in his showcase were the Australian Open missing and the Masters trophy missing, those two tournaments were for me goals, I know what it means for my partner and I wanted to deliver. I deliver half of it which happened here right away at our first Grand Slam which was amazing, we played great tennis.
Has it helped your singles? Every match you are winning is giving you a lot of confidence and you are not winning Grand Slam tournaments every week, so it was a magic moment in my career, gave me a lot of confidence, a lot of pride and also a lot of motivation to the rest of my career.
How is it as a more experienced man on the tour? I’m running the same as the young ones do. I’m not here as a supervisor position, I’m here as a pitbull who wants to win every match he plays. Once I’ll be done I can watch them, but now I’m here to play and to compete and I want to win every single match.
Winning the Davis Cup must have been extraordinary… The highlight of my career so far. It was special wining in front of our home crowd in my city after 32 years delivering the trophy to our country was something amazing, still i have goosebumps now when I’m talking about it. The memories are huge, we know what it means for our country, our fans, everyone was celebrating in our country which is something i will remember for the rest of my life.
Is it more special because you won the final rubber? I was dreaming about such a match. It came, the guy upstairs couldn’t be a better director of everything, but we have to go with the situation, but it was very special and it gave me a lot of motivation to keep going, keep improving, be better every single day. It was also a relief because Davis Cup was one of the goals of my career, and especially when we played with only me and Tomas [Berdych], which is every difficult to play all three days, we managed winning it, it’s such an incredible effort that we put in.
Have you seen men’s tennis change since you started playing? Definitely, the courts and the balls are getting slower, the technology of the rackets is getting to a different level, all the players are physically very ready, matches are such physical contests, so anyone is not 100% ready it’s very, very difficult to win a match.
But you still love it? I love playing same as i did as a kid, I’m still happy when I’m on the court, I’m still childish sometimes, I love to play. It’s the thing I know in my life, I’m not better at anything else. As long as I know I can compete with the best I can be succesful, have fun, it’s fulfilling me, then I will keep going.