Czech tennis player Radek Štěpánek has bid a final farewell to his career. And the two-time Davis Cup winner has officially hung up his racket in spectacular style – with enormous international and Czech sports stars attending his exhibition event at a sold-out 02 Arena in Prague on Thursday.
Fourteen thousand people packed Prague’s O2 arena on Thursday evening for Radek Štěpánek’s highly anticipated exhibition show. Among the biggest guests was retired tennis legend Andre Agassi, hockey star Jaromír Jágr and, from the world of football, Pavel Nedvěd and Petr Čech.
Štěpánek started the event with a doubles match along his long-term doubles partner Leander Paes from India, with the pair facing Novak Djokovic and Tommy Hass on the other side of the net. Speaking to Czech Television, Djokovic had nothing but praise for his “opponent”.
“It’s an amazing pleasure to be here tonight for Radek, who is someone I love as a friend, as a rival, as a colleague, as a mentor and as an older brother from another mother.
“This man here is a wonderful human being. He is an incredible tennis player and he has done a lot for the Czech Republic. I know exactly how he felt about playing for this country.
During the evening video messages from Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were played on a big screen in the arena.
Among those who came to pay compliments to Štěpánek in person was Tomáš Berdych, who won the Davis Cup alongside him.
“I think tennis lacks people like Radek. Today tennis tends to be very monotonous and maybe a bit boring from the viewers’ perspective, because there are not many differences between individual players.”
Štěpánek, who was joined on the podium by his family, including his wife and former tennis player Nicole Vaidišová and their recently born daughter, tried hard to fight back emotions:
“It is hard to search for the right words, because I am so full of emotions. But it is definitely an evening I will remember until the end of my life. I would like to thank everyone who came and shared this moment with me and all the players who found time in their busy schedule to be here with me. I really don’t know what to say.”
Radek Štěpánek will perhaps be most remembered for his part in Czech Davis Cup wins, against Spain in 2012 and against Serbia a year later.
His highest singles ranking was eighth but he found more success in doubles, winning the 2012 Australian Open and 2013 US Open in the men’s doubles, as well as a bronze medal for the Czechs in the mixed doubles at the Rio Olympics.
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