Roddick holds on for victory
Brisbane - American Andy Roddick held off a magnificent fight-back from Radek Stepanek to claim a thrilling 7-6 (7/2) 7-6 (9/7) victory in the final of the Brisbane International on Sunday.
Stepanek saved six match points in the second set tie-break but couldn't save a seventh and when he served a double fault at 7-8, Roddick claimed the first title of the year.
Roddick seemed to be headed for a straight-forward victory when he won the first set and led 5-1 in the second.
But in a match reminiscent of the women's final on Saturday when Justine Henin came back from an almost identical position against Kim Clijsters, Stepanek stormed back against an increasingly agitated Roddick.
Stepanek won five straight games to lead 6-5 but once the set went to 6-6, tie-break specialist Roddick had the advantage.
The American raced to a 6-1 lead before Stepanek came back again, winning the next five points to make it 6-6.
However, the huge effort on a stiflingly hot Brisbane day seemed to take its toll on the 31-year-old Czech as his tired-looking second serve sailed just over the service line.
"It was weird -- I don't think I've ever squandered a lead where I've been putting in first serves and making approach shots," Roddick said.
"The first time I served for it I had a double fault, but I don't know that I missed a ball apart from that.
"The next one I actually made five out of six first serves and again was coming in.
"Once he got down he kind of loosened up and played more aggressively.
"In the breaker I think it was the same deal," he added.
"I made my first serves, and I think those thoughts were helping me hang on to the last shred of sanity I had."
The title is the 28th of Roddick's career and his first in Australia.
"I certainly don't know if I expected to come and win my first tournament after a pretty extended lay-off," he said.
The win also put an end to Stepanek's nine-match winning streak in Brisbane, which included taking the inaugural title at the Queensland Tennis Centre in 2009.
The first set was a fascinating battle between the raw power of Roddick and crafty play from Stepanek, who put the world number seven under real pressure from the first game.
Stepanek had break points in the seventh and 11th games but was unable to convert them and he was made to pay as the huge-serving Roddick took control of the tie-break from the first point.
Roddick came out firing at the start of the second set as he broke Stepanek in the opening game and again two games later to open up a 4-0 lead.
Stepanek refused to give in and he began to play some superb tennis, moving Roddick all over the court, bringing him forward with drop shots then lobbing the American when he was stranded at the net.
"He had the match under control but I was fighting until the last point - I never gave up and I got my chances at the end in the second set tie-break," Stepanek said.
"I played great tennis and didn't miss many balls and the pressure he was putting on me until that point completely changed and I was putting pressure on him and I was doing it pretty well."