TENNIS

Radek Stepanek calls time on his 21-year-old tennis career

The 38-year-old Czech has won five ATP singles titles, 18 doubles titles, and two Grand Slam doubles titles, with India’s Leander Paes.

Injury-plagued veteran Radek Stepanek said on Tuesday he would quit tennis after a professional career spanning 21 years and including two Davis Cup and two Grand Slam doubles titles.

“I knew a tennis career was limited, but I wanted it to last as long as possible,” the 38-year-old Czech told reporters in Prague.

“I have fought until my last breath but it’s time to go now,” he added.

Stepanek has won five ATP singles titles, 18 doubles titles, and two Grand Slam doubles titles, with India’s Leander Paes at the 2012 Australian Open and the 2013 US Open.

Together with Tomas Berdych, Stepanek led the Czech Republic to Davis Cup titles in 2012 and 2013, becoming the first player ever to win two decisive fifth rubbers in two consecutive Davis Cup finals.

Already popular among fans for his colourful playing style, involving wild fist-pumping and jumps of all sorts, Stepanek became a national hero after the wins.

For Davis Cup ties, he wore a T-shirt he had designed, with a big lion design on the front, a symbol of his country, complete with the state emblem – and which Andy Murray’s mother Judy once called “staggeringly bad”.

Stepanek also chose his partners in the tennis world – he was once engaged to Martina Hingis, and shortly after splitting with his wife, former world number seven Nicole Vaidisova, in 2013, he started dating two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Czech tabloids have recently said Stepanek was dating Vaidisova again.

Born on November 27, 1978 in the eastern Czech city of Karvina, Stepanek reached a career-high eighth spot in the singles rankings in 2006.

Six years later, he was fourth in the doubles rankings.

Stepanek’s career was marred by injuries – in the spring he underwent a lumbar spine surgery following his last appearance on the court at the Australian Open.

“I’ve had some hard time in the year since the surgery,” said Stepanek.

“I have decided to end my career. I took a broader look at my life and found out I’d hate to risk my health.”

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