Three sets. Just three measly, freaking sets is all that separates Roger Federer from his dream of a French Open title, a Pete Sampras-tying 14th career Grand Slam and who knows what else.
Standing in his way is the 2009 version of Martin Verkerk, Rainer Schuettler and the countless other semi-anonymous players who every now and then poke out of the pack and make a once-in-a-lifetime push into the spotlight, Robin Soderling.
Soderling, though, comes in as a different kind of player. The 24-year-old Swede upset the seemingly invincible Rafael Nadal a Sunday ago, and then backed up the win with impressive victories over Nikolay Dayvdenko and then Fernando Gonzalez in a Friday thriller. Robin’s been playing hot, streaky tennis that can give anyone problems including Federer.
Federer hasn’t been at his best, and today he may not need to be at his best against Soderling who has been playing well above his pay grade. Federer’s been clearly dealing with the nerves, the pressure since the Nadal knock out. But today, while Roger will no doubt be feeling the weight of the moment, one has to wonder just how will Soderling react in the biggest match of his life? Then again, the stakes are much higher for Federer.
Today, Roger is playing for essentially everything. As I said on Monday, this was going to be Federer’s most important week of tennis of his life. Today it culminates and I think he gets it done, straight sets. Pull up chair, history is about to be made.
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