Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Beast Within

Au revoir: Robin Soderling Stops Roger Federer's streak at 23

Today at Roland Garros, it was Deja vu all over again.

After 12 consecutive losses to Roger Federer, a defiant Robin Soderling undoubtedly understood what kind of inspired tennis he would have to play to snap the streak - and he did just that.

Just like last year, when he slayed the indomitable dragon known as Nadal, Robin Soderling has shocked the tennis world by bringing another tennis deity to his knees on Phillipe Chatrier. On a rain-soaked clay court, playing his brand of high-risk tennis to perfection, Soderling forced Roger Federer to spend the majority of the final three sets on the defensive.

Serving bombs, and launching weapons-grade groundstrokes from the baseline, Soderling quickly struck back in the second set to erase a one set deficit, before the players were forced to retreat to the locker rooms due to inclement weather.

When they returned, Soderling was still on his game. The soggy conditions, according to Soderling in his post-match interview with Brad Gilbert, gave him more time to catch up with Federer's pace. And when he did catch up, the big Swede made it count by winding up his big forehand and taking aim at the white lines.

Swinging for the fences any time he could get his feet set, the big Swede hit 49 winners to go with his 14 aces.

But Federer was never out of this match until the last ball was struck. In spite of the difficult playing conditions and the insane level of Soderling's play, Federer managed to go up a break in the fourth set with some fine play of his own.

Soderling, however, was undeterred. He snatched the momentum back by breaking immediately, then continued to launch his version of shock and awe against the legend on the other side of the court.

After securing a second break, Soderling had a chance to serve for the match against Federer, and he did not wilt.

The final game seemed to be over before it began, and Soderling was emphatically pumping his fists waiting for Federer to shake his hand at the net before the heavy reality of what had just occurred started to seep in.

Federer's streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi finals is over, but Federer fans can find solace in the fact that his streak of consecutive Grand Slam quarter finals is still in tact.

Meanwhile, Soderling is the first man in 25 years to knock out the defending champion in back-to-back years (Mats Wilander knocked out Yannick Noah and Ivan Lendl in '84 and '85).

There wasn't much that anybody could have done to derail Robin Soderling today - greatest player to perhaps ever play the game, or not.

Now at 11-1 over the last two years in the French Open, Soderling will look to advance to his second straight final when he plays Tomas Berdych in the semi finals on Friday.

No matter what type of craziness ensues, Soderling has put an exclamation point next to the words that have defined his last two seasons at Roland Garros.

Last year we thought it may have been a fluke, but this year it's official. Robin Soderling is a giant killer of epic proportions.


  1. Soderling better keep his head together and start getting ready for Berdych. It would be a travesty to not follow through on this win.

    Sorry for Federer, but his streak, and his game will forever be remembered as perhaps the best we've ever seen.

    He'll be back ready to repeat at Wimbledon, and I think he's got a good chance to do it.

  2. Tremendous win by Soderling today in a way similar to Stosur's win over Henin yesterday. Both players had the game to do it, but the belief was always the question mark. It was great to see him put both the game and the belief together today. I know a lot of people will "hate" Soderling for this, but it's great for the game that he is in the mix now for majors.

  3. Soderling is quite the giant-killer at Roland Garros. He ended up making the finals last year after some questioned if he could follow up his win over Nadal.

    If he meets Nadal in the final, it could be a very interesting match. I think Nadal might have a bit of a mental struggle playing him again at the French.

  4. "There wasn't much that anybody could have done to derail Robin Soderling today - greatest player to perhaps ever play the game, or not."

    Well, greatest player have done much in their 12 previous meetings - he applied variety, unlike today. Today he stubbornly insisted on fighting power with power, and he was simply not powerful enough.

    Where were all those slices, chips and dropshots, all those sharp angles? Federer just fed Soderling nice regular pace and he gratefuly teed off. Soderling needs to be moved, not only laterally but up and down court. Otherwise he has all the time in the world to set up and whack.

    Besides, Federer's serve went to a crapper after set one.

  5. anonymous - agree. I thought about this and my only answer was that Fed got behind in so many of the points that he was in no position to dictate what type of shots he could play. Credit Soderling for taking control of points as soon as he got the opportunity and, as you mentioned, credit Fed not serving the way he normally does when his back is against the wall.


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