SONY ERICSSON OPEN 2012
Paes & Stepanek Are Team To Beat In 2012
by Matt Fitzgerald|
Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek are the team to beat thus far on the ATP World Tour this season. The Indian-Czech duo captured their first Grand Slam team title at the Australian Open, defeating top-ranked and three-time defending champions Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan.
At the Sony Ericsson Open, the two again defeated the Bryan twins to reach the Miami final. SonyEricssonOpen.com sat down with the pair to discuss their quick chemistry and friendship.
Why do you think you’ve been able to gel so quickly as a team?
Stepanek: I think we have great energy on the court. Our styles match up well on the court. We understand each other as a person. All together, it makes a very strong partnership. I’m happy for that.
Paes: I think the bond is just amazing. This is the beauty of tennis. It creates friendship over 20 to 30 years. I’ve been on tour for a long time and I have friends from many generations. I have a lot of respect for a lot of different players. Because of my tennis, I’ve made a friend like Radek. So even away from tennis, if he ever needs somebody, I’m just a phone call away.
Leander, now that you’ve completed your career Grand Slam and recently collected your 600th win, what are you hoping to accomplish next?
Paes: I’m going for my sixth Olympics. To make it to London would rewrite the history books in one way. I’ve got an Olympic medal in singles, so I’m looking forward to trying to get one in doubles. With the way I’m playing now, the way I’m stroking the ball and having good health, I think I could do well there.
Radek, where does winning the Australian Open title rank in your career achievements, with it being your first major title?
Stepanek: It’s very high up, because winning Grand Slams is what every tennis player dreams about. Winning the trophy with Leander was definitely an exceptional moment in my career. I’ve always concentrated on my singles, which I’m still doing now. I enjoy playing doubles, but my main focus remains with singles. I told Leander at the beginning I’ll give you a few tournaments this year. I’m very happy with the success we’ve had and I know what the title in Australia meant for Leander, to finish off his career Grand Slam. I told him I will give him my best and that moment happening for him was really amazing.
With your early season success, you’re starting to distance yourselves from the pack of contenders. Is finishing the year as the top-ranked team one of your goals?
Paes: It’s not one of my main priorities. For me, it’s about winning big events, doing well at the majors and Masters 1000 tournaments. Every time I step on the court, I look to keep improving. That’s something I can do with Radek. He’s such a good tennis player and is so professional with what he does. There’s a give and take. He teaches me certain things… I teach him other things. I’m there for him when he’s not having a great day and vice versa. That’s what doubles is about.
Since joining forces, what’s something you’ve learned about your partner that you weren’t aware of before?
Paes: He builds mojo. You can play an average match, and get through it. He’s really looking forward to the next match and he’s doing the right things to get better. His professionalism is something I was hoping for and that’s what I love about him. He’s always there for me. Anytime I say, ‘let’s do this’, he’s always there for me. The big advantage that this team has is our experience. He respects my strengths and I respect his.
Stepanek: I know quite a bit about him. He played previously with other Czech guys like Martin Damm, David Rikl, Lukas Dlouhy, so we’ve been around each other for a long time. So I haven’t been surprised with anything as I knew what to expect. He takes his time for everything. He’s not precise like a Swiss watch. But that’s how he is. I don’t want to change him. I know he can do his best on court and that’s what counts.
Leander, you’re seeking your third straight title in Miami with a third different partner. Why do you think you’ve been able to establish such incredible consistency here?
Paes: I think the tournament organizers at Crandon Park do an amazing job making us players feel comfortable. The new locker rooms are wonderful. There are plenty of practice courts out there. And then there are the people. Whether it’s the girls at accreditation, the guys at transport, or the trainers and physios, when you come behind the scenes and see such a mammoth event like this, it’s the people that make the tournament what it is. The people here in Miami make me feel at home and that’s why I love coming back.
And also it has that Latino flavor. I’ve got some Portuguese blood in me, so that Latin influence is a lot of fun.
I see you’ve got some Starbucks with you here. What’s your favorite ‘pick me up’?
Paes: That’s another great thing about Crandon Park. They have a Starbucks on-site. I like their Chai tea latte with soy milk. But in Miami, it’s got to be with ice.
Get the VIP treatment and go behind the scenes with the 2013 Priceless Experiences Program Presented by MasterCard. Go
This exclusive venue features an upscale restaurant, trendy bar and lounge area which allow guests the opportunity to escape the heat.Go