A look at the semifinals at the French Open:
Roger Federer vs. Juan Martin del Potro
Two players stand between Federer and a first French Open title — the first of who has never won a set off him on five meetings. While he is Argentine, clay is not the ideal surface for the tall, lanky del Potro, who is forced to scramble and bend and reach and maintain an athletic balance. Federer beat him in straights during this year’s claycourt season at Madrid, and humiliated him earlier in the year, force-feeding him two bagels in a loss at the Australian Open.
Del Potro could make it competitive if he is on the top of his game, but insert the Swiss into his fourth consecutive (!) French Open final, with no Rafa in sight this time.
Robin Soderling vs. Fernando Gonzalez
Soderling has a new coach, a new attitude, and a little something called confidence that you get from beating Rafael Nadal in his living room, otherwise known as Roland Garros. Mats Wilander says Soderling’s strength is he “doesn’t give a sh*t,” and that’s the attitude he will need to take into the semis against the free-swinging Gonzalez.
Soderling’s coach is former French runner-up Magnus Norman, new for 2009, and happy to be with a young student after formerly coaching Swedish veteran Thomas Johansson. “This challenge appealed to me more, as I feel more involved with Robin,” Norman told RolandGarros.com. “He’s younger and listens more. I like that! Before starting work with Robin, we looked into what he needed to work on. His mental attitude was an obvious priority. So we talked a lot, discussed things. Before, he was like a teenager on court: now he’s a man. He became a great warrior with a cool head. That’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
Gonzo leads the head-to-head 4-3, including 2-0 on clay, in some tightly-contested matches. Flip a coin here, but if Soderling can continue his form in beating Nadal and de-pantsing Nikolay Davydenko, put the Swede in the final for a delicious meeting against a nervous Federer.
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