Stepanek Worm Dances His Way to the US Open Series Lead
by Sean Randall | July 23rd, 2007, 11:37 am

Now I know. When you win the first hardcourt tournament of the summer which puts you out in front of the US Open Series, that’s when you break out the worm dance. That according to Czech Radek Stepanek who bounced the blundering James Blake in three sets in the LA final Sunday and then proceeded to gyrate, ungulate, or whatever you want to call it in celebration.ADHEREL

Those wacky Czechs – remember Petr Korda’s scissor kicks? (I try not to) But whatever works for Radek, he deserved it beating four Americans en route to victory including James in the finale.

As much as I respect and admire James Blake for what he’s been through and overcome, at some point, especially on break points, if you are Blake you have to stop trying to blast winners off return of serves in crucial situations and simply get the ball back in play. I know the return is his big weapon, but there really is no need to try to deface the ball off of every serve that comes close to your hitting zone. Wishful thinking on my part though, something tells he’s never going to change his ways.

Back to Stepanek. You have to give him a lot of credit. The guy had been out for so long with a bad neck, plus he’s been dating Hingis, so in some ways like Blake he, too, has had to overcome a lot.

But unlike Blake, Stepanek plays a pretty smart, sensible game. He’s rather quick from what I saw yesterday, certainly knows how to play the net, and despite the talk from ESPN, especially Pam Shriver, I’m not really sure how much he was trying to get inside Blake’s head with his injury TO at 2-1 in the third or with his intermittent questioning of line calls. I’ve seen a lot worse than that.

Bottom line, ESPN’s American boy Blake mentally self-destructed in the final set of a big match. Again. So what else is new? How about for new, having Radek Stepanek driving that US Open Series bus in that commercial, which after one weekend I’m already sick of.

In some ways I’m glad tennis isn’t on TV until next weekend so I don’t have to sit through having to watch that bus rolling down the road with Serena at the wheel.

“Greatest Road Trip in Sports” is the theme, however many of the stars of the campaign may hardly show up outside of Blake and Andy Roddick. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal will be playing two events each at most – both Masters Series. And who knows if the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova or Justine Henin even play one. That’s why for next weekend, they should put the guy leading the Series, in this case Stepanek, in the commercial driving the bus. Just super impose his mug over Fed’s. Have him do the worm dance. That’d be great.

Sorry to take a slap at the US Open Series, but let’s face outside of the USTA honchos who created it no one cares about its prize money jackpot at the end or its points race. No one. That said, I do like the fact the USTA pays some of the TV costs ensuring matches are on air every weekend of the summer, so that’s nice, and I understand they give the tournaments some cash to play around with. Now let’s give Radek the keys to the bus.

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26 Comments for Stepanek Worm Dances His Way to the US Open Series Lead

frances Says:

wow. i’m sick of that commercial too — but they only showed Serena once. They mostly show Sharapova, so why how can you get tired of Serena?

zola Says:

I haven’t finished reading your post, but this cracked me up:
“plus he’s been dating Hingis, so in some ways like Blake he, too, has had to overcome a lot.”

that was meeeaaaaaannnnnnn!

zola Says:

OK. Now I finished reading and I enjoyed your post. Thanks a lot and cannot agree more with everything you said.

I think there is lots of unnceccessary hype over American players, especially James and Andy. I respect both. At least Andy is trying hard. James constantly needs a sport psychyatrist to tell him lift his head and don’t get down when he falls behind. Unfortunately lots of James’s losses are mental.

The level of tennis testerday was great from both sides and I really enjoyed the beautiful strokes and fast play from both sides.

On the OT time, how is it bad to have an injury TO, but it is not bad to have your friends and family in a box next to the court with their fist pumping against your opponent? They were standing up and yelling even after warning. James is responsible for their behavior because they are his friends and this has not been the first time they are bullying James’s opponents.

Stepanek deserves lots of credit and definitely the drivers seat on that tour bus.

zeg Says:

Good rant, Sean.
Blake can’t think on the court. He’s a one -dimensional player, just like Roddick. Trying to blast your opponent off the court is not a strategy. No wonder these guys only come alive on fast courts, and even then their mental focus is limited, just like your comments on the yesterday’s match or Roddick’s fiasco at Wimby.
“Bottom line, ESPN’s American boy Blake mentally self-destructed in the final set of a big match. Again. So what else is new?”. Ain’t that the truth. I’m so sick of the mindless non-stop chatter and blatant bias of these announcers, I’ve got a blister on me “mute button” finger.

penise Says:

re that commercial the worst is federer. totally wooden. somebody prick him with a pin

still love the Open series thought; tennis on tv every weekend is pretty great

zeg Says:

Hey, zola :

Valid point regarding Blake’s posse. Frankly, nothing surprises me about Blake after what he had tried to pull at Delray’s round robin.
He’s coddled by the media, revered by the tennis establishment and is almost considered “saint James” by the sycophant TV talking heads. And on what grounds? That he’s black? That’s about it.

zola Says:

thanks. I don’t thinks it is a black/white issue. Just to sell someone by an image. but that doesn’t work in the internet and TV era. hopefully we can read and watch things and judge for ourselves.

I hope James changes a few things and stays in the top for a long time.

Ville_Liukko Says:

“plus he’s been dating Hingis…”

Thats great. LOL.

Ville_Liukko Says:

BTW Valid point about Blake. Hes never gonna change though. Get used to seeing 120mph FHs, flat as a pancake, straight into the net tape for many more years.

Cant wait til DY gets it together at the tour level, American tennis blows right now.

Skorocel Says:

Ha ha, dating Hingis really takes a lot from Stepanek:-) Btw zola, is that true? I always thought of Blake as a true gentleman, so it surprises me a lot. As far as I know, James’ mother and also his brother Thomas used to always act fairly, so I guess it must have been someone from those people, who suddenly become friends with you once you gain some success, isn’t it?

zola Says:

Blake is certainly a very articulate and intelligent person. I have problem with a few things he has said or done that I said before. So, I am hoping that he take note and change a few things.

poor Hingis!

John (1) Says:

Since Hingis is engaged to Stepanek. Maybe they should both drive the bus. Or maybe one of them should do a little backseat driving!

I’d also like to see the women who actually show up at these events on the bus. For example the two top seeds at Stanford are Chakvetadze and Bartoli. Any ideas on what Marion might say?

Others at Stanford that might be interesting: Kirilenko, Hantuchova, Bovina, Golovin (in her red shorts), and Patty Schnyder.

Bam! Says:

Hey Sean,

Does tennis-x plan to rip the Europeans for playing on clay while the hardcourt season is underway or is tennis-x just a bash the Americans for skipping Monte Carlo kind of place? I was just wondering. :-)

yellowballspanker Says:

Blake had the dream tournament for him. No Roddick, no other top ten players except Gonzo who’s back to his slumping ways since the Australian. He should’ve won it easily. I thought Keifer would be the only one to take him out. But it just goes to show how much of a second tier player Blake really is. He is like Roddick… an excellent athlete… but not a natural tennis player. He doesn’t have the footwork or the strokes to win big matches… so his game breaks down when it gets tight. It IS all mental, but those strokes have to work weather your head is on right or not. Like Roddick’s serve that betrays him when he gets nervous, Jame’s footwork and forehand betray him as well. It sucks, because it seems like they won’t listen to anyone, and are now both on the downhill of their careers. They are not going to get any better… ever. So what will become of American tennis now? We are doomed.

zola Says:

What is all the hype about clay court games before USOpen? Just because lazy American players don’t want to play on clay, you want to force ATP to eliminate post-wimbledon clay tournaments?

There are plenty of hard court tournaments all around the worls. more than those on clay+grass in total. Those who want can go play those hard court tournaments if they want. But no, they chose to sit home and instead bash the many European players who want to play on their favorite surfaces.

The world doesn’t revolve around America and American players. get used to the idea!

John (1) Says:

In funk/truck, the question of the day: Could you pick Anna Chakvetadze out of a lineup?

That’s like asking: could you pick Robredo or Gasquet out of a lineup?

Since she’s seventh in the world, why would she be unknown?

Maybe lack of TV coverage. If she didn’t play Venus or Serena, she very likely won’t be seen in the USA.

Note that she won the title in Cincinnati and there was no TV coverage.

Sean Randall Says:

Bam! I get what you’re saying. The arguement goes is that when Americans pass on playing European red clay French Open lead-ups, they get bashed. Well, why don’t the European players get similarly bashed for skipping US Open lead-ups?

The answer in my mind is simple, the European have proven they know how to play on hard courts. Just last year we had three European players in the US Open semifinals. That’s three more players than North America has had represented in the French semifinals (or even quarterfinals i think) THIS ENTIRE DECADE!

Clearly, the US players need the practice on the red clay whereas the top Europeans may not benefit much for playing an extra hard court event like Washington this ummer.

Of course I wish guys like Federer and Nadal played more events here in the U.S., but I can’t blame them for not doing so. In fact I fully expect Fed to pull from Cincinnati if he wins the Canadian, and then I think Nadal will likely withdraw from one of the Masters events – my guess the Canadian – to rest his foot, which he says gives him problems on hard courts.

So to answer your question (though I cannot speak for this site as a whole), no, i will not be bashing the top Europeans for skipping most of the US Open Series. In fact, it’s probably a smart move on their part!

zola Says:

great answer. Thanks a lot.

As you said it is too much to ask any player to play in all 6 events leading to USOpen. also the American players pulled out of master series ( Monte Carlo) . Right now, all hard court games that the Europeans skippled (UCLA, Indy) in US are small tournaments.Contrary to the Americans, the The Europeans will be here for the MAster series events.

Tom Says:


Sitting in the stands each day at the sparsely attended Countrywide tournament, I couldn’t help but wonder what impact appearance fees are playing in the results of some of these minor tournaments.

As for the US Open series, the only meaningful tournaments, on the men’s side, are Montreal and Cincinnati. C’mon, Amer Delic (ATP #60) was seeded in the Countrywide tournament and Ivo Karlovic (no disrespect to Dr. Ivo at #43) is seeded 5th at Indy. I’ve seen better fields in Challenger events. It goes along with the general decline in American tennis. Maybe they will all take their appearance fees and we’ll be treated to a Nishikori vs. Dancevic final. How much time can NBC fill with blabber during that final?

Diane Says:

I agree about the commentators, and especially Pam Shriver, who seems to think it is in her job description to stir up trouble at every event.

Stepanek is a superb, all-court player, and Blake is a head case.

Diane Says:

“I’d also like to see the women who actually show up at these events on the bus.”

John, you made me think of something funny. Many years ago, I was attending a Virginia Slims tournament, and the opening match had to be postponed because Zina Garrison had–you know what I’m going to say–taken the bus!

John (1) Says:


Since you shared your funny thought, here’s one that I had.

One of my favorite movies is “A Fish Called Wanda”. And one of my favorite commercials is “RGX” with the RGX girl (Rachel Spector) who knows “how to separate the men from the boys”.

Wanda Gershwitz (Jamie Lee Curtis) got turned on when Archie Leech (John Cleese) spoke in any language that was not English.

I have a similar problem. I love it when my favorite female players speak in any language other than English.

I’d especially like to see Elena Dementieva do something like the “men from the boys” RDX commercial in either Russian, French or both.

She could do this on or off the bus, I don’t care.

John (1) Says:

re: funk/trunck

“Unknown” Anna (first seed) has made it to the Semis at Stanford. This means she should finally get some TV time (ESPN2 Saturday 10PM-2AM ET).

To win Stanford, and make it two in a row, she needs to beat Hantuchova and then either Schnyder, Mirza or Bammer.

Sean Randall Says:

Tom, dead on.

The LA tournament certainly has lost some of the luster. During the broadcast they kept showing their “Ring of Honor” with Agassi, Sampras, Becker, Edberg, etc., and meanwhile we are watching James Blake and Radek Stepanek. And don’t think that fact wasn’t lost on the tournament organizers.

LA’s a tough place from an entertainment standpoint, you need A-list stars at worst to create a buzz. Blake-Stepanek is not Agassi-Sampras!

And from there it spirals downward. The more Blake-Stepanek finals we get the less likely that tennis will be on big time TV in the future (ESPN, CBS, NBC). I guess that’s good if you are the Tennis Channel, but not good for tennis as a whole if few people actually watch the network.

FloridaMan Says:

Well agreed. Blake is definitely not what you would call a thinking man’s player, in any sense of the word. He just tries to blast the ball a lot, without much concept of variety or strategy. There has to be some reason he’s never won a 5-set match in 9 tries. The 5th set is more about heart and strategy than it is about how hard you can blast the ball.

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