It’s over. Roger Federer’s remarkable 23-Slam semifinal streak came to a crashing end today courtesy of the boogie man, Robin Soderling. For the second straight year the tempestuous pulled off a major upset at the French Open.
Last year Soderling halted Rafael Nadal’s 31-match clay win streak. Today, lightning struck again as the Robin rocked a tournament favorite, this time Federer beating the Swiss 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the French Open quarterfinals.
“Hey, of course it’s nice to beat the world No. 1 two years in a row on the center court,” Soderling said. “I think both times I play really good tennis. I think it’s a great feeling.”
In wet conditions Soderling found himself down a set early and staring at his 13th straight loss to the Swiss. But Robin regrouped and blitzed Federer with a flurry of heavy winners and big serving, keeping Federer off balance to take the second and push to 5-5 in the third when an hour rain delay stopped the action.
When play resumed Federer fell apart, unfortunately at the wrong time. Soderling quickly broke and wrapped up the third. Finding himself a set up, Soderling didn’t flinch and continued to pound away at Federer.
At 4-4 Soderling earned the final break, and when a forehand service return sailed long the match went to Soderling.
Soderling added, “Of course he had some chances in the second set. First set he played well. I didn’t serve so well. Then in the second it was tough for me, and I saved a couple of really important points. So I think when I won the second set, which was very big for me, I really felt that I could relax a little bit. After that, I think I start today play better and better.”
That’s two straight years Robin has beaten the World No. 1 and defending champion in Paris (and he’s beaten Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in Slam play!). And now for Federer there is serious doubt on “the when” he’ll pass Pete Sampras for total weeks at No. 1.
Watching the match I thought Robin played even better than he did last year in his win over Rafa. Federer looked good, too, but simply couldn’t match the Swede’s power and aggressiveness. And Soderling surprisingly kept it together mentally when it mattered.
Soderling now sets up a semifinal against Tomas Berdych with a rematch with Nadal looming. The big-hitting Berdych swatted Mikhail Youhzny 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 to reach his first career Grand Slam semifinal. Berdych has not lost a single set in five matches and is looking mighty dangerous.
Berdych and Soderling will play their semifinal on Friday, so each player should be plenty rested.
As for the women, Elena Dementieva dropped the first set to Nadia Petrova but recovered to win 2-6, 6-2, 6-0. She’ll now play Francesca Schiavone who became the first Italian women to reach a Slam semifinal after beating Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 6-3.
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