Ice-Cool Robin Soderling looking fired up in Paris again

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
robin soderling

Soderling reached the French Open final last year (Photo: Emmett Hume)

Robin Soderling looks like he is up to his old French Open tricks again.

On his way into Roland Garros this year, the tall and and sardonic Swede had blown hot and cold. A finals finish in Barcelona was followed by early exits both in Rome and Madrid. Then in Nice last week, the world No.7 once more fell at the first hurdle.

That is not ideal preparation for a Grand Slam, but it is a very similar story to last year for Soderling. And on that occasion, he blew the tournament apart. First, he beat the outstanding clay courter, David Ferrer. Then he was responsible for the shock exit of Rafael Nadal.

He went on to beat Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Gonzalez to take a place in his first Grand Slam final, where he lost to Roger Federer. But that run announced the arrival of Soderling as a major force in the men’s game.

And here he is, doing the same again.

In his first match, on opening Sunday, he gave his unfortunate opponent just five games. In his second, he conceded only two. In the blink of an eye—one hour and ten minutes to be precise—the bombardment of Taylor Dent was complete: 6-0 6-1 6-1. And Soderling looked as though he had plenty more game in hand.

What made Soderling’s latest win even more impressive was that he generated the power and pace that one might expect from hot, dry conditions, but Roland Garros has turned cool and damp.

A confident Soderling is a dangerous prospect, and he does look confident. His next test should be a little harder: he plays recent Estoril champion, Albert Montanes. But the Swede looks like a man on a mission. He is a private, sometimes taciturn, individual but with the kind of dry wit that suggests an astute brain. And he could be the dark horse at this tournament again.

Soderling could, in the fourth round, face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or former Roland Garros junior champion Marin Čilić, both of whom managed convincing straight sets wins.

Mention must also be made of Federer, not because he fought off a strong attack in his opening set against Colombian Alejandro Falla, nor because he glided back to win in a straightforward three sets. It is to highlight his next match, where he will expect to celebrate his 700th tour-level win and also his 150th clay court win. The records continue to tumble for the wondrous Swiss.

Due to several rain delays day four at Roland Garros ended in some of the most bizarre conditions ever witnessed in a major tournament. In complete darkness, and half an hour after Andy’s Murray match on Court 1 was suspended, in the second set, for bad light, Gael Monfils and Fabio Fognini continued playing to 5-5 in the final set. It was an atrocious decision by the umpire, particularly as it appeared to be made in deference to the baying French crowd.

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