January 11, 2009 / 10:15 AM / 10 years ago

Stepanek wins Brisbane International

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic upset Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 3-6 6-3 6-4 on Sunday to claim the men’s singles title at the inaugural Brisbane International.

Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic poses with his trophy for photographers after defeating Spain's Fernando Verdasco in the men's singles final at the Brisbane International tennis tournament January 11, 2009. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Third seed Verdasco looked to have the edge after winning the first set but Stepanek, who had won his quarter-final and semi-final after being a set down, clawed back to win in three at the Pat Rafter Arena.

Stepanek, the eighth seed, cleverly changed his tactics after the first set, employing a series of drop shots to break up Verdasco’s rhythm and the move paid off handsomely.

“I just played a few today. When I was young I played drop shots every second rally,” Stepanek, ranked 26th in the world, told reporters.

“It was part of the game plan to get him out of the rhythm and to move him around the court and it worked quite well.

“I was destroying the rhythm of the opponents since I was a kid and I’m still doing it today but I’m more professional in many ways and that’s the biggest difference.”

The victory provided the 30-year-old Stepanek with only his third ATP title after wins at Rotterdam in 2006 and Los Angeles in 2007.

The 30-year-old has been on the professional circuit since 1996 but said he was only just starting to reach his peak after a neck injury in 2006 stalled his career.

“I had to start work from zero,” he said.

“Now it’s been two years and I’m starting to feel again that I’m getting to the top physically.”

Organizers of the Brisbane International hailed the tournament an instant success after more than 65,000 spectators attended the event, well ahead of the target of 50,000.

The tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the men’s and women’s professional tours, was formed by a merger of the now-defunct Australian men’s and women’s hardcourt championships held at Adelaide and Gold Coast.

“For a new tournament, always the first time is the worst (so) if this year is the worst, I cannot imagine next year,” Verdasco said.

“This tournament is in my heart and I would like to win it.”

Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Sonia Oxley

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