When Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic fired a backhand passing shot to seal a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 9-7 victory against the Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek on Day 1 of the Davis Cup quarterfinals on Friday, he let out a boisterous celebration and then jogged to the net to share a standard handshake with his opponent. What was waiting for him was anything but standard.
Unfortunately, the television cameras cut to a rowdy Serbian bench and missed the net exchange between the two after their five-hour match. But by the time the focus returned to the players, Tipsarevic was angrily yelling at Stepanek and had to be restrained by his captain.
When asked by Czech reporters what instigated the incident, Tipsarevic didn’t mince words:
“I would just like all of you to know what kind of person is Radek Stepanek. I have this thing that I always believe in the best in people, and even though players are telling that he can be not so nice on the court, I never believed it, even though I played him three times.
As you can see my behavior on the court was, I think, fair enough. When he fell, I crossed the net to see if he needs help. I was always letting him go past the net first. I even two times admitted a ball (was in) that was questionable. After five hours and 10 minutes instead of shaking my hand, he gave me he the middle finger and told me I am “stinking” … something bad, it’s a swear word. Let’s just say “vagina”. I just say it like that. I just want you to know what kind of person is your Czech player, Radek Stepanek.”
Stepanek, though, saw things differently. “We normally shook hands,” he said. Czech captain Jaroslav Navratil didn’t exactly rush to his man’s defense, saying, “Radek may have told him something, but I was too far from them [to hear].”
Here’s video of their “handshake” and Stepanek muttering something in Tipsarevic’s direction. Tipsarevic also tweeted a Zapruder-esque shot of the offending ‘shake.
“I can understand that somebody like him can be angry after losing a match,” Tipsarevic continued, “especially after having so many chances. But doing this? Not that … I would never invent something like this. Our photographer has proof…
Unbelievable. I never, ever, ever thought that I would experience this, especially because of my behavior on court. I’m not saying I’m a golden boy, and I’m the Stefan Edberg of men’s tennis. But at least I know what is right and what is not right. There is just only one word for this: it is pathetic. Nothing else.”
The bad blood carried over through the weekend. Ilija Bozoljac refused to shake Stepanek’s hand after he and Nenad Zimonjic lost in doubles on Saturday. As for Tipsarevic, he isn’t letting this go anytime soon. “I would probably never speak to [Stepanek] again,” he said.
I’m not sure that’s going to keep Radek up at night. The Czech Republic ended up winning the tie after Tomas Berdych beat Tipsarevic 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) on Sunday to clinch a spot in the semifinals against Argentina. I hope Janko isn’t friends with them on Facebook.