Stepanek rumored to join Djokovic’s team in wake of retirement

Radek Stepanek announced his retirement from tennis earlier this month. The 39-year-old Czech, who last played at the Australian Open, underwent back surgery in March. He aimed for a return later this season but was unable to do so and eventually decided to call it quits.

Stepanek won five ATP singles titles and 18 doubles titles–that latter including two Grand Slams with Leander Paes (2012 Australian Open, 2013 U.S. Open). He reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 8 and a career-high mark in doubles at No. 4. Until his retirement, he was one of just four active players who have reached both the top 10 in singles and doubles at any point in their careers (Jurgen Melzer, Fernando Verdasco, and Jack Sock). Stepanek also captured back-to-back Davis Cup titles with the Czech Republic in 2012 and 2013 while winning a decisive fifth rubber both times–over Spain’s Nicolas Almagro and Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic.

“I’m very proud of my achievements and the whole team who helped me throughout my career; they definitely have their signature on that,” Stepanek said. “I think the suitcase (of awards) is packed. Obviously there is a trophy missing for a singles Grand Slam title, which I wasn’t that close to. But I’ve done a lot in my career, and it’s something that I can be proud of.

“Every day (my health) has been a question mark. I had small pain every day and that was painful. I didn’t have days when the pain was going away and after conversations with the doctors I started to practice 50, 60, 70 percent. But I didn’t get to more than that. I realized that the body was showing me that it had had enough.”

Coaching, however, is very much on the table. There are rumors circulating that Stepanek will join Novak Djokovic’s team for the upcoming 2018 season. Andre Agassi is still on board to work with Djokovic but is expected to travel only to the four majors and perhaps a few other important tournaments.

“Why not? I’ve dedicated my life to tennis, it’s what I know best and I would like to pass on my knowledge and experience,” Stepanek said in a recent interview with a Serbian journalist.

At least in some capacity, whether it is with Djokovic or not, Stepanek plans to remain in tennis.

“In what department will I be better than I am in tennis? Will it be in business? Will it be opening a restaurant? Maybe a car dealership? What will it be? The best I can be will always be in tennis. I think I know this sport up and down, inside out, and I have incredible experiences throughout my career. I’ve met such great people–incredible people that I’ve learned from and I’m a student of the game. I believe that with what I’ve been through I can pass it to somebody one day, and we’ll see how it goes, but my intention is to definitely be part of the game.”

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