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Page last updated at 12:12 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Federer v Stepanek as it happened

Masters Cup

Red Group result:


7-6 (7-4) 6-4

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By Mark Ashenden

1356: So here's the deal. Murray through to semis. Feds needs to beat Murray to have a chance of going through with Gilles Simon still to play Radek Stepanek. In the gold group, Novak Djokovic has already progressed, so the winner of Nikolay Davydenko and Juan Martin del Potro will join him in the last four. Is that all clear?

Federer 7-6 6-4 Stepanek
Another good rally to open the game and only a loose one from Steps hands the initiative over. Steps is looking a little weary and a tight shot into the net takes Feds two points from victory. A cute chip return gives him match point. And it's all over with a double fault. Not the greatest way to win but Feds will settle with that. That was crucial he won that in straight sets. If Federer beats Murray in his final group match then that means Feds will join Murray in the semi-finals.

Federer 7-6 5-4 Stepanek
Steps is not giving this one up easily. He takes the first two points and the crowd sound jittery. A sensational backhand pass from him while sliding on and a celebration to match - a backward hop eight times. 0-40. The crowd are loving that. I've got to be honest - that was sweet all round. And Steps breaks back. This aint over yet. This Czech has got some fight in him.

Federer 7-6 5-3 Stepanek
The game begins with the Scissor Sisters - the music improving slowly along with the standard of tennis on offer. Feds takes a 30-15 lead but blasts one into the net - should have done better there. Feds takes it 40-30 with a crashing backhand that looks like it goes through the body of Steps. Perhaps that baggy shirt of his really is magic? And bang - another backhand winner and Feds edges closer to victory.

Federer 7-6 4-3 Stepanek
It's nip and tuck and then Feds play a stunning cross court backhander to make it 40-30. A blink of an eye and a rattle of a Swiss cowbell (and there's a few of them in Shanghai) and it's game.

Federer 7-6 3-3 Stepanek
Feds is definitely cranking it up with his backhand in full working order. But he's presented with an easy lob opportunity and it almost ends up in the lap of his cheering supporters. 30-30. Steps goes long with a simple ground shot and he blows a chance to take the game. More deuce action. A volley into the net and Steps takes it to 3-3. As a side issue, read this morning Martina Navratilova is going to step into the jungle for I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! What can I say? What can you say?

Federer 7-6 3-2 Stepanek
The Swiss sights have been plugged in. Feds is finding the corners of the court but Steps is still giving everything. Feds nicks it though. My colleague Chris tells me Stepanek was once engaged to Martina Hingis.

Federer 7-6 2-2 Stepanek
The booming serve of Steps is not letting him down and he cruises to a 40-0 lead. The Chinese crowd are willing Feds on and there's a big groan as Steps wins his service game easily.

Federer 7-6 2-1 Stepanek
That's the first game for ages that Feds has won without breaking sweat. You sense he's got his foot on the clutch and he's one move away from finding that next gear. But Steps is still right in this.

Federer 7-6 1-1 Stepanek
Another backhand drive from Feds screams wide and Steps takes the opening two points and a bodged forehand lob goes long makes it 40-15. It's beauty and the beast for Federer's shots at the moment with Steps hanging in there at deuce. The ding-dong continues and Fed's getting reward for making occasional moves to the net. Steps takes the game though and this match is turning into a bit of a cracker.

Federer 7-6 1-0 Stepanek
Both players have raised their game and there are some cute rallies now. A backhand pass down Federer's right side had no right to win the point but you know what, it did. 30-30 and pressure right back on Feds. Two beautiful passing shots from both players and it's deuce. An ace from Feds and it's game.

Federer 7-6 Stepanek (7-4)
Feds starts well but then a couple of errors lets Steps back in at 4-2 when they change ends. At last, a bloomin' rally longer than five shots, but Steps blasts into the net. An ace makes it 5-4 and the crowd are waking up. A cheeky drop shot and that's the opening set in the bag. Feds will be a relieved man.

Federer 6-6 Stepanek
Not a good start for Feds and blazes a shot wide of the mark. Steps playing tidy tennis - nothing flashy - but he's doing more than enough to keep Feds in check. A sloppy Feds shot at the net with the court beckoning but an ace takes it to a tie-break.

Federer 5-6 Stepanek
A careless shot from Steps down the right lets Feds in for the opening point. Mrs Feds looks on - hold on, it's not Mrs Feds. Long time girlfriend Mirka Vavrinec. C'mon Feds, surely it's time to pop that question. Tie-break looks likely now.

Federer 5-5 Stepanek
Feds cruises to the first two points but then come back the stutters. His second serve is looking better than his first right now. What's all that about? A cracking looping backhand pass from Steps takes it to 40-30. Feds hangs on though. This is getting nervy.

Federer 4-5 Stepanek
Steps hangs on and he's looking a little sweaty. Just so you know, Feds NEEDS to win this match after Murray's straight sets victory earlier today. He doesn't look like a man under pressure though. Does anything rattle this boy? More great serves and Steps is a game away from taking the opening set.

1255: "Federer always changes his racquet the game before the balls get changed - a lot of players do it actually."
Judy Murray on 5 Live Sports Extra.

Federer 4-4 Stepanek
It's another scrappy game with neither player dominating. The Feds serve is not firing either and it goes to deuce. And who said Fed had a bad back? Steps almost passes him but on the stretch low down Feds angles the ball back just over the net. Sublime. That Swiss spinal chord must be creaking after that. All level again.

12:50: "It is hard for the stand-in players - they have to hang around a lot just in case they are needed. But Stepanek has got nothing to lose and he is playing very confidently and smartly out there. I have seen him around our hotel this week - he actually smacked me on the head in the hotel bar the other night - Andy told him off for not smacking me hard enough."
Judy Murray on 5 Live Sports Extra.

Federer 3-4 Stepanek
Bad shirt or no bad shirt, it's not hampering Stepanek's play though. A double-handed backhand down the line gives him the first point - that was a beauty. At 40-15 Feds is wobbling and Steps hangs on with his serve looking strong. Another double-handed winner and he edges ahead again.

Federer 3-3 Stepanek
After losing two on the bounce Federer's back. An effortless service game and they're level. I am still gob-smacked by Step's blue and white shirt. It really is two sizes too big.

Federer 2-3 Stepanek
Fed's not quite found his range yet. His backhand and forehand look sound but he's straying wide too many times at the moment. A booming ace that makes the Shanghai crowd go "oooh" gives Steps (a little bit easier than Stepanek) an advantage and another massive serve gives him the game. The Suiss man needs to up his game after losing his opening match to France's Gilles Simon. Kylie Minogue's 'Locomotion' booms out in the arena - has there even been a more annoying tune ever recorded?

1225: "Stepanek's turned up without his own racquets, he borrowed some socks off me earlier and he hasn't got his contact lenses either. So I knew I had to win the match because I can't see him winning too many games. I was a bit nervous because I knew I had to come through."
Andy Murray after his Simon win

Federer 2-2 Stepanek
Fed has an easy forehand but blasts straight into the net. A few more silly errors like that and his opponent could sniff an upset. A blistering cross-court forehand from the Czech sends the game to deuce. And unbelievable. The man who looks like he's spent the last two days picking up kit at a jumble sale takes the game. Game on.

Federer 2-1 Stepanek
Bit of a streaky game that one but at last Stepanek's finally on the board. Not a particularly convincing service game but hopefully he'll relax a bit now.

1221: "I think Federer is looking pretty good out there - it is going to be tough for Stepanek - he has been hanging around all week without playing and apparently he practiced using Novak Djokovic's racquets."
Judy Murray on 5 Live Sports Extra.

Federer 2-0 Stepanek
Boom boom and he's two games up. Radek Stepanek by the way has come in as replacement for Andy Roddick who withdrew earlier today after injuring his right ankle in practice. And for those just waking up and wondering what's happened to the boy Murray - well he's already got his slippers on after seeing off France's Gilles Simon and making the semis.

Federer 1-0 Stepanek
Fed's right in there straight away and breaks the Czech immediately. The former world number one looks pretty cool with his foppish hair flapping over his headband.

1201: Impressive stuff from Murray and it's time for the defending champ to show off his skills. Murray revealed after his win that he handed over a pair of his socks to Radek Stepanek who has stepped in for the injured Andy Roddick. Ever borrowed some clothing ahead of a big event?

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see also
Masters Cup photos
12 Nov 08 |  Tennis
Murray v Simon as it happened
12 Nov 08 |  Tennis

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