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"Ferrer never gives a free point"

Radek Stepanek, the leader of the Czech Davis Cup team, looks ahead to the final

Juan José Mateo
Stepanek during a match against Lleyton Hewitt at the Shanghai Masters last month.
Stepanek during a match against Lleyton Hewitt at the Shanghai Masters last month.CARLOS BARRIA (REUTERS)

Sometimes, appearances can be deceptive. Radek Stepanek may be 33 years old and getting a bit thin on top, but plenty of the player who reached number eight in the world remains, thanks to his cat-like instincts at the net. A player who has lost out as a result of the Tour's move toward slower courts, Stepanek will have a supersonic surface as his ally during this weekend's Davis Cup final against Spain.

Question. Some opponents have described you as the devil: on court you scream, jump, stick out your tongue, you strut...

Answer. My attitude doesn't have anything to do with the opponent. I play with my heart, my emotions and feelings. That will never change. I tried it once; I lost 6-0, 6-1. There are things other players do that annoy me, but I respect my opponents. It's my natural way of playing - every body has its own language. That's why tennis is so wonderful and unique: every player is different, every game is different.

Q. In an interview with this newspaper, Ivan Lendl said you are a special player...

I am from a different generation to most players; the game was different"

A. It warms my heart that a legend such as him, who brought professionalism to tennis, said that about me. Words don't exactly fly out of his mouth so it's a real honor.

Q. What makes you a special player?

A. Because volleying is my natural playing style. I am from a different generation to most of the players on the Tour, when the game was different. Then, tennis was more creative; players approached the net more and used serve and volley. The courts were quicker than they are now. My tennis is based on breaking up the rhythm of opponents.

Q. You are a player of touch, [Tomas] Berdych smashes and rips his shots. Which of his weapons would you steal?

A. His forehand. When he's in the zone he can hit winners from anywhere, off any type of ball. When I returned to the Davis Cup team in 2007 I was aware of the potential this team has, with Tomas and myself. Since then, I have played to win the Davis Cup.

Q. In 2009, you lost the final against Spain, with Nadal in the team. What is missing without him?

A. Rafa is one of the best of all time. It's a shame he has not played in six months. Without him, Spain loses a player who always gives his all in the Davis Cup. But we have our own problems and we can only concentrate on our team.

Q. If you had to define David Ferrer in a word...

A. Pitbull.

Q. Was that how you felt in 2009 when you lost from two sets up?

A. That was my best game on clay. At the beginning I was destroying him, but he was never out of the game, he played until the last ball. It was an incredible battle, a boxing match. He likes to defend and make chances from the baseline. It was a fascinating game. Unfortunately, I lost. Ferrer never gives you a free point.

Q. You and Berdych will probably play all five rubbers in the final. What does your father, a tennis coach, think?

A. When I was young I had two choices: go to the tennis court with my dad or the library with my mom. I think everybody knows which one I chose. My dad taught me everything.

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