WASHINGTON -- Unseeded Czech veteran Radek Stepanek became the first semifinalist at the 2011 Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, DC, defeating No. 5 seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain 6-4, 6-4.
Stepanek's variety and point construction gave him advantages in rallies, managing to turn Verdasco's significant advantage in power into an exploitable one-dimensionality.
Verdasco managed to find range on his ground strokes and serve in the middle of the match and led 3-0 to begin the second set. But Stepanek's frustrating deft (and some mild gamesmanship) caused a Verdasco letdown, the type of disappointing drop in focus he was more known for early in his career.
Stepanek, 32, made it to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2006 and the finals of Masters events (now ATP 1000) in Paris 2004 and Hamburg 2006, but has never won a singles title as prestigious as the ATP 500-level Legg Mason Tennis Classic. He said, accurately but surprisingly, said that a title in Washington would be the biggest of his career.
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