Czech veteran Radek Stepanek beat Olympic bronze medallist and number six seed Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) to advance to the third round of the Rogers Cup on Wednesday.
It was Stepanek’s second major scalp in as many days, after his straight-set win over Citi Open winner Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine on Tuesday. It was also the 33-year old Czech’s third victory over Del Potro in four meetings.
The match witnessed a total of seven breaks of serve, three in the first set and four in the second, but it was Stepanek’s net play at crucial points that ultimately proved to be the difference between the two players.
Stepanek started off strongly, breaking Del Potro’s serve in the very first game of the match with a down-the-line backhand winner. The Czech had four break points for a double break of serve in the third game of the set but Del Potro recovered to hold serve and get himself on the board.
Games then went with serve until Del Potro broke back in the eighth game of the set to even things up at 4-4. However, Stepanek broke serve in the very next game and then served out the set to love, with back-to-back aces.
In set two, Del Potro broke Stepanek’s serve twice in the second and sixth games respectively only for the Czech to break right back.
The set was eventually decided in a tie-break in which successive backhand errors from Del Potro at 5-5 handed Stepanek the match and a place in the third round, where he will take on the winner of the second-round fixture between Gilles Simon and Tommy Haas.
How to play from the baseline
The expression “to endure the rally” is about those indeterminate moments of a rally where none of the players is leading.
The ability to endure the rally is fundamental when you play a “long rally”, because it offers you the chance to measure your opponent’s strong points and vulnerabilities, besides letting you position as best as possible for your next offensive shot.