Robin Soderling was that close to choking away one of his biggest wins. The Swede hung on in the end to stun the No. 3 seed Andy Murray 6-1, 7-6(4) in the quarterfinals of the Indian Wells BNP Parisbas Open yesterday.
“It feels great, and especially here in Indian Wells because my record here hasn’t been so well,” Soderling said. “I thought I couldn’t do well here, and now I show I really can.”
Soderling absolutely hammered a lifeless Murray for the first set 6-1. Murray started to show some signs of fight in the second, but Soderling was still connecting and seized a break. With Murray serving 3-5 Soderling held match points, but couldn’t convert.
Now serving for the match at 5-4, Soderling’s place in the SF seemed secured as he confidently carved out a 30-love lead. But just at the finish line, like that Soderling’s game shriveled away. Sparked by an incredible backhand down-the-line winner off a nervy Soderling overhead smash, Murray won 13 of the next 16 points. The run put Murray just two points from leveling the match at 5-6, 0-30 Soderling serving.
Credit to Robin though, as quickly as the tide had changed he got it back. Soderling recovered and played some big-time tennis to win the game and then the ensuing tiebreaker.
For Murray, this loss isn’t going to sit well following that Australian Open final collapse.
“I think he played very well to start with, and I didn’t,” said Murray who seemed to again be stuck in passive mode. “I didn’t move particularly well. I was hitting the ball really short, and he’s obviously got a big game and he was able to dictate all of the points. So from my side it was poor, but he hit the ball really big from the back of the court and served well when he needed to.”
The win puts Soderling into his first Indian Wells semifinal where today he meets Andy Roddick.
“I worked hard, and, I think I changed the way how I think a little bit,” the 2009 French Open finalist added. “A couple years ago I was very focused on playing well all the time. And now what matters to me now is to win matches. Doesn’t matter if I play well and win matches or play bad and win matches. You still have to win.”
Roddick, like Soderling, hasn’t dropped a set after another comfortable 6-3, 7-5 win over Tommy Robredo who he is now 11-0 (27 of 28 sets) against. I think in the future they shouldn’t even play that match, there just is no point. Robredo looks utterly hapless against the American.
As for today’s picks and pans.
Rafael Nadal and Ivan Ljubicic are on at noon Indian Wells time in the first semifinal. One thing to note, Nadal probably hasn’t played a match this early (noon) in a long time, so that will be unusual for the Spaniard. But beyond that little else should trouble Nadal this afternoon. Nadal has won 10 straight and 20 of his last 21 at Indian Wells and while Ljubicic has enjoyed his share of success in the desert as well, I don’t think it will be enough to overcome Rafa.
Ivan does have a big serve and he really strikes his backhand well. And I think he’ll be smart enough to know he’s got to go for his shots – he can get into extended rallies with Rafa – but I just don’t think the 31-year-old has the speed to track down enough of Rafa’s shots to make a serious impression on the Nadal’s serve. I think it will be close, but Rafa wins here.
The second semi is Roddick and Soderling. Of the four remaining players Soderling’s probably been the most impressive given his opposition. The guy has wins over Lopez, Tsonga and now Murray. So the Swede’s confidence has to be sky high. Meanwhile, Roddick’s been untested and untroubled. He’s always owned Melzer and Robredo so it’s hard to get a read on where his game is really at.
The two big, fiery servers have met twice before and Soderling won both in straight sets – two indoor matches in 2008. So edge goes to Robin in that department. And I think the Swede is playing the better tennis of the two. If Roddick starts dropping his balls short like Murray did yesterday, Soderling is going to have a good day at the office. So Andy will need to have depth on his defensive shots, serve big and perhaps try to get under the Swede’s skin with some bully tactics (talking, strutting, etc). But nerves will again come into play and for me Roddick’s the steadier guy. So I’m picking Roddick in this one.
And I should also mention that Nadal will team with Marc Lopez to face Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in the doubles final which is scheduled for 5pm local time. The Spaniards beat Nestor/Zimonjic for the Doha doubles title last year. Looks like Rafa’s got a busy day (or two) ahead of him.
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