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LOS ANGELES (TICKER)
-- A well-rested Radek Stepanek had too many answers for James Blake.
Stepanek converted a pair of service breaks in the decisive set and knocked off second-seeded Blake, 7-6 (9-7), 5-7, 6-2, in the final of the $525,000 Countrywide Classic on Sunday.
Ranked 101st in the world, Stepanek won his second career title, helped by a walkover in Saturday's semifinal match when Germany's Nicolas Kiefer withdrew due to a knee injury.
It was the Czech's second win in five career meetings against Blake, who had won the previous three encounters - all on North American hardcourts. He won $73,000.
Stepanek had attained a career-high world ranking of No. 8 in July 2006 before suffering a back injury that sidelined him for the final third of the year.
He had failed to win three matches in a row this year until advancing to the semifinals at Gstaad last week, providing the impetus for his title run here.
Leading, 2-1, Stepanek took control by breaking Blake in the fourth game of the deciding set. After a double-fault, Stepanek pounced on Blake's second serve and drilled a backhand winner down the line for a 3-1 advantage.
Both players held until the eighth game when Stepanek again took advantage of Blake's inconsistent serve to score another break and seal the match.
Stepanek, who failed to even reach a quarterfinal in his previous 14 tournaments this year, had not dropped a set this week until the American took the middle set.
Blake was seeking his second title of the year and 10th career. The American won at Sydney in Australia, then finished as runner-up a month later at Delray Beach.