‘I Love You, Man’ - Novak Djokovic Lead Tributes To Radek Stepanek At Special Event - UBITENNIS
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‘I Love You, Man’ – Novak Djokovic Lead Tributes To Radek Stepanek At Special Event

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also praised the recently retired Czech player.

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Novak Djokovic has paid tribute to his former coach Radek Stepanek at a special ceremony to mark the retirement of the Czech player.

 

On Thursday evening the former world No.1 travelled to Prague to play at a exhibition event celebrating the career of the former world No.8. Stepanek announced his retirement from the sport in November 2017 at the age of 38. His decision to hang up the racket was due to ongoing issues with his back, which he had an operation on during February 2017.

“Radek I truly love you as a friend, as a college, as a mentor and as a brother from another mother.” Djokovic said during a speech at the O2 Arena. “This man here deserves everything he received. He deserves it because he is a wonderful human, an incredible tennis player that has had a wonderful career. And, he has done a lot for the Czech republic.”

Born on November 27th, 1978 in the Czech mining city of Karviná, Stepanek has enjoyed success in both singles and doubles throughout his career. Breaking into the world’s top 10 in both categories. He has won 23 ATP titles, of which 18 occurred in the doubles. He was twice runner-up at a Masters 1000 event at the 2004 Paris Open and the 2006 German Open. At the grand slams, his best performance was reaching the quarter-finals of the 2006 Wimbledon championships. He is also a two-time grand slam champion in men’s doubles.

Shortly after retiring from the sport, Stepanek found himself in a new role. Becoming the coach of Djokovic during a time when the Serbian was recovering from a serious elbow injury. Although the partnership lasted less than six months.

“I’ve had him in every role of my of my life, but I have him in the most important role which is as a friend and someone that I truly love and respect.” Said Djokovic.
“I want to congratulate you on a wonderful career and wish you all the best for what’s to come. Well done for everything you’ve done.” He added.

The special evening in Prague also featured the presence of India’s Leander Paes and Germany’s Tommy Haas, who played in a doubles match. Andre Agassi was also present and made a brief appearance on the court.

During the event, tributes from other players were also broadcast on the screens inside the arena. They include one from 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer. Who played Stepanek 16 times on the tour, winning 14 of their matches.

“I want to congratulate you on a wonderful career and wish you all the best for what’s to come. Well done for everything you’ve done.” Said Federer.

World No.1 Rafael Nadal, who head-to-head record against Stepanek is 7-0, also paid tribute.

“It’s been a pleasure to share with you some great moments on tour. There has been some great battles (between us) and I just wanted to wish you all the best for the future.” Nadal said.

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Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic win their sixth title this season in Rome

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Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic claimed their sixth title and their third ATP Masters 1000 of the season after a 6-4 7-6 (7-4) win over Jo Salisbury and Rajeev Ram. 

 

Mektic and Pavic have lifted their titles at the Antalya Open, Murray River Open in Melbourne, ABN AMRO World Tennis Championships in Rotterdam, the Miami Open and the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters. They also finished runner-up at the Madrid Mutua Open. 

Mektic and Pavic were not able to convert a break point in the first game, but they broke serve in the fifth game after three consecutive return winners. 

The Croatian team served out for the first set in the 10th game. The second set went on serve with no break points en route to the tie-break. Mektic and Pavic raced out to a 6-0 lead, but Salisbury and Ram won four consecutive points to claw their way back to 4-6.  Mektic and Pavic won the tie-break on the fourth match point. “It feels great and and we are very happy with the way we played the whole tournament. We did not drop a set, so it showed how well we played throughout the week. It was a tough match. There were only a couple of chances in the first set before it became tighter in the second set from 6-0 to 6-4 in the tie-break. I hope we can keep going. The goal is to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin. I was hoping we’d have good results, but it has surprised me a little bit as we had not played together before this year”, said Pavic.

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Andy Murray Skips French Open To Focus On The Grass

The decision has been made after the Brit experienced some ‘discomfort’ during his time in Rome.

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Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray has delayed his return to competitive tennis after deciding to not play any more tournaments on the clay this year.

 

The former world No.1 has confirmed that he will not be playing at the French Open, according to multiple British media sources. Murray’s decision comes less than a week after he was in Rome training with some of the Tour’s top players. During one of his practice sessions in the Italian capital, he had a hit with world No.1 Novak Djokovic who said afterwards he was impressed by the current form of the Brit.

“I was very happy to see him. I haven’t seen him in a while, and it was great to hit with him. I thought he played very well on the court,” Djokovic told reporters last week.
“He moves well considering it’s clay which is not the best surface for his hips. But considering what he has been through lately, I think it seems like he’s been feeling well on the court. That’s what he’s saying, and that’s what it appears on the court itself.”

It is understood that Murray experienced some discomfort in Rome where he participated in the doubles tournament with Liam Broady after receiving a last-minute entry. It is unclear as to where the pain is located and how serious it is. Although it has been deemed significant enough for him to decline a wildcard into next week’s Geneva Open and pass on the French Open where he would have possibly had to play in the qualifying draw.

Murray will now switch his focus to the grass ahead of Wimbledon. He is currently scheduled to next play at The Queen’s Club where he has a contract to play there for the rest of his career. The tournament will start on June 14th with Murray saying he is looking forward to playing in front of a British crowd again. Under current restrictions, Queen’s will welcome 25% of its 9000-spectator capacity.

“It’s been such a difficult time for everyone and it will be great to play in front of home fans in Britain again,” said five-time champion Murray. “The tournament at Queen’s has always meant a lot to me – it’s where I won my first ATP match, I’ve won the singles at Queen’s more than any other in my career, and I’ll never forget our doubles title in 2019. I can’t wait to get back out there.”

34-year-old Murray has played just 11 Tour matches since winning the European Open in Antwerp back in 2019. He is currently ranked 123rd in the world.

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Novak Djokovic battles past Lorenzo Sonego in epic Rome semifinal

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Novak Djokovic claimed a 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 win over Lorenzo Sonego in an epic semifinal to reach his career 10th final at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

 

Djokovic went up a set and a break and held match points in the second set, but Sonego won the tie-break to send the match to the third set. Djokovic avenged his defeat against Sonego, who won their only previous head-to-head match in the Vienna semifinal. 

Djokovic set up a 56th clash against Rafael Nadal in a blockbuster final on Sunday.

Earlier today Djokovic came back from a set and a break down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6 7-5 7-5 in the quarter final match, which was interrupted by rain on Friday. 

Djokovic won nine points more than Sonego in the first set. The Serbian player hit a service winner to hold serve at love. Sonego held his serve with a drop-shot winner in the second game before Djokovic held his serve in the third game with a forehand winner. 

Djokovic hit a deep return in the fourth game and earned a break after a forehand error from Sonego. The world number 1 player held serve with a drop-shot to consolidate the break in the fifth game. Sonego held serve in the sixth game at love. 

Djokovic did not face any break point in his next service games and held serve at 15 to seal the first set 6-3 with a forehand down the line winner after 34 minutes. 

Djokovic created eight break points in the 91-minute second set, but the first first ten games went on serve. 

Sonego faced a break point from 40-15 in the third game of the second set and fended it off with a service winner. The Italian 26-year-old player fired another service winner to hold serve for 2-1. 

Djokovic held serve at 15 in the fourth game and earned three break points at 3-3. Sonego saved the first two break points with smash winners and the third chance with a drop-shot. Djokovic hit an ace down the line to hold serve at love in the eighth game. Sonego saved two break points with his forehands to hold after three deuces for 5-4 in 10-minute marathon game. 

Djokovic fended off two set points in the 10th game and held with a service winner to draw level to 5-5 in another 10-minute game. The Serbian star broke serve in the 11th game with two winners at the net earning his chance to serve for the win. 

Sonego saved two match points in the 12th game when Djokovic served for the final at 6-5. and converted his second break point with a service winner to force the second set to the tie-break. 

Djokovic hit a forehand down the line winner to build up a 4-2 lead in the breaker before hitting a double fault. Sonego hit a backhand down the line winner to take a 5-4 lead. Sonego converted his fourth set point with a service winner to win a hard-fought tie-break 7-5 sending the match to the third set. 

Sonego raced to a 0-40 lead in Djokovic’s first service game and earned three break points in the first game of the third set, but he wasted them. Djokovic got the break at 15 in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead and consolidated it with a hold at 15 for 4-1. 

Djokovic created his second match point with a forehand winner at 5-2 and converted it to seal the win after Sonego sent a forehand into the net. 

“I have only myself to blame for not closing the match in two sets. At the end of the day, he is showing why he reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinals. He is a quality players. He is a quality player. It is not easy to play against him. Obviously he had the crowd behind him. It was an electric atmosphere out on there on the court”, said Djokovic. 

Djokovic will meet Nadal for the ninth time in Rome. Nadal and Djokovic have wn 14 of the past 16 editions of the Rome tournament. Nadal leads 5-3 in his previous Rome clashes against Djokovic. 

“I don’t have much time to recover. I played a lot of tennis. Hopefully I will have fresh legs because that’s what I definitely will need. It’s necessary in order to have a chance against Rafa. He also had some tough matches, obviously myself, with rain delays and everything that has happened today. Hopefully I will be fresh and I will give it all”, said Djokovic. 

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