Competing in the quarter-final in Madrid 2005, the home favorite Rafael Nadal defeated Radek Stepanek 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 51 minutes to advance into the semis. It was their fourth meeting and the fourth triumph for the Spaniard, who lost serve once in the opener and produced two return games to move over the top and reach the last four.
Nadal opened a 5-0 and 6-2 lead in the tie opening set tie break before wasting all four set points and bringing Stepanek back into contention. The Czech even had two set points that Rafa dismissed to claim the breaker 11-9 and avoid an upset.
They stayed neck and neck until 4-4 in the second set before Rafa grabbed a crucial break and held to move over the top and remain on the title course. After the match, Nadal spoke about that exciting tie break and the chances he missed.
He praised Stepanek and the aggressive game that always makes him uncomfortable.
Rafael Nadal spoke about beating Radek Stepanek in Madrid 2005.
"Of course I'm proud. It was a very tough match. I knew that Stepanek is a very uncomfortable opponent that gives you no rhythm.
I knew I had to resist and be consistent. It was a great match at a very high level; fast and floating. I knew it would be difficult, but I fought as much as I could until 6-2, when it got complicated. But I'm thrilled because now I reached the semifinals of another Masters Series at home.
Robby Ginepri had a great US Open run; it won't be easy against him. I didn't do well on my first two trips to Madrid, and I'm excited to reach the semis. Madrid is a great indoor tournament, and I would love to reach the final.
The crowd has been fantastic the whole week. Once I decided to play, I knew I owed the fans a lot. Every time I got on the court, I felt warmly welcomed. I was a bit unfocused at 6-2 in the opening set tie break, wasting four set points and allowing Radek to get back into it.
All the matches against Radek have been difficult. He has that strange movement with his serve in the final moment, making it hard for me to control it. Also, he is very aggressive, and I never feel good playing against him. I played against two set points in the opener, and had I lost it, it would have been more challenging for me to win in the end.
I led 5-0 in the tie break and served at 6-2. He came back and had two set points that I erased and won it 11-9," Rafael Nadal said.