This weekend at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. we saw the unexpected happen. By that, I mean unseeded Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic capturing the title, as he faced the number one seed, Gael Monfils of France, who was obviously favored going into the match.
Two rain delays were not enough to throw Stepanek off his game at all, as he played as well as you possibly can in the finals. His consistency put the pressure on Monfils to come up with something extra in the match. After being broken in the first set, Monfils could never get the opportunity to break back, as Stepanek shut the door on all those chances. Much to the crowd’s dismay, Monfils was unable to combat Stepanek’s shot-making on this day.
Monfils looked to be a little out of gas in the finals as a result of a long hard-fought three set win over John Isner of the United States the previous night. The match, which was scheduled for a 7:00 p.m. start, finished at 1:15 a.m. thanks to three rain delays. Monfils was able to prevail as the match went down to the wire in a third set tie-break, where the Frenchman was able to break Isner's serve at 7-6 in the breaker. Monfils had saved a match point at 6-5, but served out two straight points to give himself his fourth match point of the night. Monfils was able to capitalize and take the match, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6).
On the other side of the draw in the semifinals, Stepanek had his way with young American Donald Young, 6-3, 6-3. For Young, it was his first ever ATP semifinal appearance. However, Stepanek’s crafty game was too much for Young to handle as he frustrated the young American into a hefty amount of unforced errors. Coming into the finals, you could tell who was the more rested out of the two players, and the slight advantage would go to Stepanek. Even though Stepanek was 2-5 in his career against Monfils, he knew he had a little edge going into the finals.
If you watched the match, it looked as if Stepanek was almost toying with Monfils, moving him left and right with ease. Monfils, who is known for his charismatic attitude and freakish athletic ability, was able to retrieve pretty much all of Stepanek’s well-placed shots, but the Czech was right there to close the point out when Monfils found himself too far out of position. The crowd did their best to try to energize Monfils, but Stepanek quickly shut the door on any momentum Monfils had. Some points ended with Monfils raising his hands in the air looking over to his coach with the “What am I supposed to do?” look. For Monfils, it was just one of those days where your opponent simply cannot be thrown off of their game. In their last meeting, Monfils was able to come out on top, 6-4, 6-4. Yesterday, it was Stepanek who was able to deliver by winning his first ever Legg Mason title, 6-4, 6-4.
The two players now head to Montreal for the Rogers Cup which will take place Aug. 8-14. Stepanek will face Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in the opening round, while Monfils, who is seeded fifth, received a first round bye.