Backhands and Compliments – ATP Edition

Stepanek wins in Washington

Add Radek Stepanek to the list of unlikely ATP tournament champions this summer. The Lendl lookalike earned his fifth tour title, but first in more than two years by upsetting top-seeded Gael Monfils in the finals of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. At 32, Stepanek also became the oldest tournament champion on tour since 2008. The loss moved Monfils to 3-11 in tournament finals. After the match Monfils blamed the ugly record on his being a touch unlucky and overwhelmingly French.

Haase gets first tour title

Dutchman Robin Haase, an eight-time winner on the challenger circuit, captured his first tour title by winning the Bet-at-Home Cup in Kitzbuhl, Austria. (Because having one bet-at-home sponsored tournament in a month just isn’t enough). Haase, 24, is the first Dutch player to win on tour since Martin Verkerk freaked out opponents with crazed facial contortions on his way to winning Amersfoort in 2004. The title pushes Haase’s ranking to a career-high No. 44. While this puts to rest questions over whether Haase will ever win on tour, or if he’ll ever crack the top 50, it doesn’t end the debate over the pronunciation of his name. Is the e silent? Or is it a long a? Without knowing what to call him, the guy remains impossible to root for.

Ward wins the VanOpen

James Ward, a tall (6-foot-3), skinny (159 lbs) 24 year-old Londoner won the Odlum Brown VanOpen in Vancouver, beating Robby Ginepri in the finals. The win moves Ward to a career-high ranking of No. 144, but he’s a proud No. 2 in his homeland. So anytime the U.S. feels down about its tennis prospects it can always find comfort in the mother country.

Nadal announces he’ll play Davis Cup semis

After skipping Spain’s quarterfinal win over the U.S. last month, Rafael Nadal declared he’s willing and able to resume Davis Cup duties. Spain is set to host France in the semifinals September 16-18 at the Plaza de Toros bullfighting ring in Cordoba. When asked if Nadal would automatically be inserted into the starting lineup, Spanish captain Albert Costa said: “Felicano Lopez came through against the U.S. and, until proven otherwise, he’s still my guy…No, I’m just messing with you. Time for pretty boy to move back to doubles.”

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