Stepanek and Monfils to meet in Legg Mason final

August 7, 2011 02:21 AM
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 06: Gael Monfils of France acknowledges the crowd after his win over John Isner during the semifinals of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic presented by Geico at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center on August 6, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) Donald Young clearly knew he fell short. After a wonderful week in which he reached his first ATP semifinal, Young had little chance against Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.

The 32-year-old Stepanek convincingly beat the 22-year-old American 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday to reach the finals at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.

On Sunday, Stepanek will face top-seeded Gael Monfils, who defeated No. 11 John Isner 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (6) in a match that was marred by rain delays and ended at 1:15 a.m.

Monfils finally won when the 6-foot-9 Isner hit a forehand into the net in the tiebreaker - more than six hours after the scheduled start of the match.

``It was a bit tough in the head,'' Monfils said.

The native of France, who is ranked No. 7 in the world, played Isner for the sixth time - each has taken three. The two passed the three rain delays, which totaled more than four hours by watching ``Shark Week'' on the Discovery Channel.

``The weather is the weather,'' Monfils said. ``It was a bit like Wimbledon, I thought.''

Monfils is seeking his first tournament title this year and the fourth of his career.

Isner said the late night conditions were difficult. He didn't know when to rest or eat, but said he handled it well.

``I don't think it affected me,'' he said.

Isner had a match point in the tiebreaker, but Monfils won three straight to end the match.

``I don't think I played a bad tiebreaker,'' Isner said. ``I just cracked a little bit at 7-6.''

In the seven years he's been a professional, Young has been known as a promising player on the tour - and this week he won four straight matches for the first time in his career. Stepanek made sure there wasn't a fifth.

``He's a veteran - 10 years my senior,'' Young said.

Their post-match demeanors were very different.

Stepanek walked into - and out of - the interview room with a bored air - checking his phone for messages.

Young sat with the body language of a teenager - baseball cap backward, one sneaker resting upon the other - not really making eye contact with his questioners.

``He had me quite flustered,'' Young admitted. ``I couldn't get set into the way I wanted to play. It wasn't that I was nervous, but more so he took me out of my game.''

Stepanek broke Young in the fifth and ninth games of the first set - and in the second game of the second set.

Stepanek won the second set's first nine points and held service in the third game when he staved off Young's only two break points of the match.

The left-hander, who was born in Chicago and is now based in Atlanta, entered this hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open ranked 128th and with a 19-53 career record as a professional.

His run this week assures Young of returning to the top 100 in Monday's ATP rankings. He still must qualify for the U.S. Open's main draw.

``I won four matches. I beat good players consistently for a week,'' Young said.

After Stepanek won, he showed some emotion - punching the air - and hitting a tennis ball into the upper deck of the stadium.

The oldest player ranked in the top 100, Stepanek is seeking his fifth title - his first since winning two in 2009.

On Friday, the former top-10 player beat Fernando Verdasco of Spain and on Saturday, came close to losing his serve just once - in the 14-point third game - which went to deuce four times.

``I had control of the match in my hands,'' Stepanek said.

If he wins Sunday, he could near the top 30.

``I'm getting my ranking higher - getting closer to getting seeded at the U.S. Open,'' Stepanek said.

Despite the crowd rooting for the unheralded American, Stepanek, who trains in Florida, claimed he wasn't nervous.

``I felt prepared because I already played three lefties in a row here. I was not needing any special preparation,'' Stepanek said.

The best week of his career over, Young was already looking toward the future.

``It's definitely a positive because I've never done it before,'' Young said. ``I hope it's the first of many.''

 

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