Robin Soderling: Maybe It Would Be Better If Rafael Nadal Lost Again At The French Open

by Tom Gainey | May 19th, 2015, 10:39 am

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Robin Soderling says he no longer wants to be the only man to ever beat Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

Soderling, who’s been off the tour since the summer of 2011 with mono, says there’s more to him than just that win, which is what he’s known for, a label he can’t shake.

“It’s good to be the only one, but everybody is asking me only about this match. I am really proud of many other things in my career: being in the top five, reaching the final of a grand slam twice. I’m actually even more proud of making it to the French Open final in 2010 than the previous year, because defending those points was a big challenge.

“So maybe it’s better that Rafa loses again, then everybody will stop asking me about it. It’s become a sort of legend, and people often get it wrong: some think that I am the only person ever to beat him in any tennis match, others think it was in the final of the French Open, some even think it was at Wimbledon.”

In the story, the 30-year-old Soderling admits his tennis career is likely over, but he is feeling better after this lengthy battle with mono.

“It’s still a dream of mine to play professional tennis again,” said Soderling.

“Over the last six months I’ve started feeling much better, maybe 90 percent. I can train a little bit now but I would rather do too little than too much. I’ve made the same mistake so many times, starting to feel better and then stepping up the training too soon and having a relapse. I’ve learnt that tennis isn’t everything.”

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41 Comments for Robin Soderling: Maybe It Would Be Better If Rafael Nadal Lost Again At The French Open

ABerg Says:

True, he does not deserve to be reduced to one match.
It is odd that mono affects tennis players that much. I don’t hear the same about athletes in general. Is it the lifestyle (10 months on the road)?

jane Says:

soda was a unique character with a monster forehand. too bad his health truncated his career like this. i suppose he may still come back, but if he’s calling it a “dream” then i have my doubts. :/

RZ Says:

I miss Soda. Too bad mono ended his career much too soon. He was always good for a Big 4 shake-up. Says:

Between Soderling and DelPotro we’ve lost a lot of elite firepower in the last five years.
I always liked Robin’s personality as well. Funny, happy, but didn’t give his “betters” too much respect. (What was his line, “No one beats Robin Soderling 12 times in a row”?)

kriket Says:

TennisVagabond, good points about the firepower.
I would only disagree about Soderling’s personality traits. Imho he had too much respect for Roger, so much so that he would’ve liked to present him the FO trophy himself, rather than try to win it. I guess nobody beats Soda 12 times in a row except for Fed. He really could’ve tried a bit harder in that FO final, rather than seeing himself as a mere obstacle to Fed’s career Slam. I remeber the post final ceremony, Soderling was almost as pleased as Fed that he finally made it. It appeared Soda didn’t want to present too much of an obstacle to Fed’s shot at the history books. That was my impression on that final match between Federer and Soderling.

Bertie Says:

Mind if you compare the top 7/8 then to now, it was a far stronger field back then.
Del Potro,
Nowadays it seems there is only Djokovic, who can beat the guy, he is incredible, The Grand Slam is definitely on the cards this year.

jane Says:

^ debatable…
the top ten right now holds 43 grand slams between them
novak – 8
fed – 17
murray – 2
berdych – 0 (but 1 slam final)
nishikori – 0 (but 1 slam final)
raonic – 0
nadal – 14
ferrer 0 – (but 1 slam final)
wawrinka – 1
cilic – 1
all but ONE of the current top ten have been in a slam final and 6 of the 10 have won a slam.

the top 10 in this week, may 2009, was

rafa – how many slams did he have then? less than 10?
fed – how slams did he have then? 13?
andy – no slams yet
novak – 1 slam
delpo – no slams yet
roddick – 1 slam
simon – never reached a slam final
verdasco – never reached a slam final
tsonga – 1 slam final
davydenko – never reached a slam final


so yeah… debatable!

MMT Says:

Wow kriket – I have always found that argument to be absurd in the abstract when it was applied to the entire generation of players that toiled in vain to usurp Federer at his best…but of all players on the planet that this WOULDN’T apply to, Soderling is chief among them.

Soderling wasn’t deferential to Federer – I guarantee that if he had a chance to win that match he would have taken it with two hands – he lost that match because he didn’t have the game to compete against him on that day, end of story. Here’s a good explanation, from Soderling, that explains why he failed against Federer, but was able to overcome Nadal, who presumably is more difficult to beat on clay. He also chips in on the GOAT debate.

This whole idea that players simply choose to capitulate, independent of their abilities, is a total nonsense. And while I don’t know your intent with such a comment, it has the unfortunate effect of denigrating Federer, because it attributes his success to the weakness of his opponents, rather than the strength of his own game.

In fact, Soderling beat Federer and lost to Nadal in 2009, then beat Federer and lost to Nadal in 2010. So why the special consideration for Federer?

MMT Says:

This week in 2009 Federer had 13 majors, Nadal had 6.

kriket Says:

MMT it wasn’t an argument per se, it was an observation, an impression. My impression about that match that stayed with me to this day. I remember Soderling’s grin at the trophy presentation. He was very excited for Roger’s career Slam success. He wasn’t in the least sorry that he couldn’t have done more, at least he didn’t appear to be. He was all sweetness and light, losing the final. Yes, it is a great success to even make it to the final, even still I don’t remember seeing a happier runner up at the GS trophy presentation ceremony as Soderling was on that day.

Again, it’s my impression. I’m not saying Soderling outright forfeited the match, but he came accross as not being bothered whether he won or lost, which of course is a losing proposition, and afterwards being a little too happy for Federer.

So, that’s what I came away with from that final match and ceremony afterwards. I didn’t do any further research as to why it seemed that way to me or if I got it all wrong.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter. My impression stays, whatever arguments you present that could change it, I bet if I watched that match and ceremony again, I would have the same feeling.
I could be wrong of course, it’s only my gut feeling from what I saw on TV that day. Nothing more and nothing less.

kriket Says:

Oh right, big words from Robin there. He outright proclaimed himself the up most authority on who is and who isn’t goat and then went on to crown Federer the undisputed goat.

I don’t know what did you think I’d see in that interview that would change my mind? Because Soderling says so, right.

For the record, I very much like Soderling, and I’m sorry he isn’t around anymore. My impressions are only about that one match. I don’t see Soderling being competitive there at all. For all he’s concerned, Roger is goat and there’s nothing he could’ve done about it. Ok, Soda, if you say so.

jane Says:

thanks mmt. so 22 slams as opposed to the current top 10 holding 43, basically twice as many. so then only 4 of the top 10 had won a slam, 2 of whom held only 1 (i.e., only 2 multi-slam champs, fed and rafa); now 6 of the top 10 have won slams, 4 of whom are multi-slam champs. it’s so easier to say “it was stronger back then” “it’s a weak era now” but these statements are debatable.

chris ford1 Says:

A lot of this is Fed fans driven nuts by the discussion of the days of Lleyton Hewitt as the unchallenged #1 for 75 straight weeks and some years after Hewitt’s reign as Fed was held to be “a religious experience” as being a “weak, less real competition time”.
So much so they try undermining their hero’s own status as the 2nd best clay courter of his era before Nole developed into it – by terming him “weak” as a clay player that opposed Nadal.
Now we have MMT’s argument that todays Top 10 is a weaker field than 2009’s.
I think Jane disposed of that argument by noting todays field is of players that have for the most part ended the Fedal monopoly. And that MMT’s argument credited people that hadn’t yet done much, with being the forces back then that they now are 6 years later –

Tennis Vagabond Says:

I am with MMT both in theory and practice.

Jane is basically doing what MMT suggested: discrediting Fed’s opponents because of Fed’s success. Circular logic.

Posit this: suppose Federer WERE the greatest force tennis had ever seen. Just suppose! Suppose his rivals WERE potential Slam winners. How could you tell that apart from the stats we have of that era?

Well, keep imagining. IF Fed WERE simply too good in a quality field, what would be the NEXT best thing a contemporary could hope for? Grand Slam finals. Roddick made five finals- losing to one man, I believe.

So that’s theory. In practice, I remember Hewitt and Safin absolutely taking it to Sampras. And that wasn’t in the wake of Sampras’ decline. That instigated Sampras’ decline.

Certainly they were an inconsistent bunch, Haas had injury problems, Guga was forced to retire, Safin was nuts. But there were a few years where Roddick and Hewitt would have been contenders in any era, and Safin at his best certainly. Then you had Carlos Moya, and aging Henman and Agassi. That covers basically 03-05. As those guys disappeared, they were replaced by Nalbandian and Davydenko and Rafa.

In 2006 David Ferrer was ranked 5. About where he is now! I call that The Ferrer-Meter.

And Prime Nalbandian and Davydenko both did well against Young World #2 Rafa. I believe Novak ended 2007 at #3. By 2008 the Big Four was set, and Old Man Roddick was STILL competing well with Young Rafa and Un-Transformed Novak.

So if there WERE a weak era, maybe it’s… 2006? The One Year Davydenko/Blake Era?

Myself, I see this moment as a weak era, simply because a 33 year old is #2, and Novak’s other real contemporary rivals are not really the rivals they were. The rest of the top ten to me are weak compared to the guys who rounded out the top ten in the ‘aughts.

DISCLAIMER: I hold no grudge, nor think anyone inferior mentally or morally, for having a different opinion about tennis.

jane Says:

cf1, i don’t think MMT was arguing that today’s top 10 is a weaker field. a poster named bertie was.

sienna Says:

1 hour after draw was out in 2009 wimbly Rafa pulled out as defending champion because he knew that second round Hewitt was waiting. a formidable grasscourt player back then comments about Hewitt were not acceptable but Chrissy thinks that todays form and lack of match wins would deminish hewitt as a player in his prime.
of course 2009 not being prime time for hewitt but still good enough for Rafa to get anxious and affraid.

elina Says:

You guys! Not just fandom posters but quite a players greater than Robin feel otherwise.

The GOAT debate only exists because of its subjectiveness.


jane Says:

TV i wasn’t meaning to discredit fed’s opponents because of his success. what i took issue with was bertie discrediting novak’s success because of his opponents, which is what many people have been doing lately. so if you’re going to argue weak era now, you open the door to ALL weak era arguments. that’s all.

jane Says:

not sure i agree that the big 4 was “set” as of 2008 insofar as andy only won his first masters that year and novak struggled throughout 09-10 for various reasons. andy and novak were only 20 as of 2007-8, and fed didn’t win his first slam till he was 21. most players peak later. novak and andy didn’t seriously complete for most slam titles until 2011-12, when they broke through respectively. that is when they really began to push at the fedal duopoly.

Purcell Says:

Fuelling the fire of the ‘goat debate’ with constant and disrespectful ‘weak era’ nonsense is insulting to proper tennis fans. Proper tennis fans are not tied to the worship of one player and they do not have this seemingly vested interest in denigrating players. Proper tennis fans can debate with a willingness to interpret the actions and words of any player fairly and without bias. Discussing personal life, (none of our business), relationships with other players, psychological well being, financial status, deprived background etc is to be done sparingly as, let’s face it, we don’t really have a clue about these ‘juicy’ subjects propounded, often incorrectly, by the media. Of course, they have an irresistible allure. Better to concentrate on the allure of……..Stan’s backhand, Novak’s all court development, Andy’s retrieval skills, Nishi’s speed, Serena’s serve, Roger’s variety of shot and more and more and more. These are what tennis is all about.

Matador Says:

Soderling played much better the final of Rg 2010 than 2009, Is not even close.

Lesser players can win against 1 or even 2 big oppoenents when they dont feel the pressure but when they are in the final against a more experienced player usually the level of this kind of players fall precipitously.

Travis Bickle Says:


Agreed! Let’s talk about tennis. For instance, did you see on Sunday how #1 destroyed #2 in straight sets. It was such a domination that the outcome was never in question. And the #2 tried really hard. And also this was Roger being schooled on clay by someone who is much weaker than Nadal in Roger’s own opinion! Watching Sunday’s match, one would think it was #1 against #37 or so, that is how dominant Novak was over Federer on Sunday. I wonder what their future matchups will bring? Much of the same? Or perhaps Roger will try even harder and improve his performance and beat Novak??? Nothing is impossible.

jane Says:

^ love your last 2 sentences purcell @ 6:51.

some of the off court stuff and comparing of careers/stats can be fun, until it isn’t, which is often.

travis bickle, i disagree. in fact, novak was down a break point at 4-4 in set 1. had fed broken there, he could’ve easily won the first set.

in fact, you do a disservice to novak by talking about federer as you do here. remember, fed almost beat novak at IW, he did beat him at dubai and shanghai, and it took 5 sets to win wimbledon.

thankfully novak respects roger and knows his quality, so he raises his game and his concentration whenever they play.

Travis Bickle Says:


“by talking about federer as you do here”

What is wrong with my talk about Federer? I simply stated the facts. You are free to disagree of course, but implying that something is wrong with my talk is going too far.

Read my post again and see if there are any incorrect statements there:
1. It was a straight-set domination
2. Outcome was never in question
3. Federer tried hard and gave his 100%
4. Novak is inferior to Nadal on clay according to Roger and still Roger could do nothing (the mere fact that only positive you could mention was that Federer had a break point, speaks for itself)

So what was wrong with my post? Was I insulting his highness? I don’t think so, but you are welcome to disagree.

Let’s look at your defeatist example:
“fed almost beat novak at IW, he did beat him at dubai and shanghai, and it took 5 sets to win wimbledon.”

You could also say that Novak almost beat fed at Dubai and Shanghai (didn’t Fed save like boatload of break points there), and that Wimbledon could have and should have been easy 4-setter affair…
But no, you choose to put it the way you did. Which again is your right and I won’t use your ways and preach to you that you do disservice to Novak by putting things that way, since I am far away from being so “pristine” to decide who and what is disservice to Novak or anyone else for that matter.

Again, the Rome final was drubbing, schooling, one-sided affair, and I don’t see anything wrong in saying that. If Federer fans don’t like to hear that, tough luck. Once Federer improves and start beating Novak, as I suggested as a possibility in my post, I will be fair and acknowledge that!

jane Says:

okay i’ll give you that about wimbledon TB. it should’ve been 4 sets, but novak really blew it serving for the match.

i just don’t think that the outcome was never in question in rome in first set at the least. i’d say the second set was a more straightforward affair for nole though.

” Once Federer improves and start beating Novak” – but he did beat novak TB, at dubai and shanghai, so it’s not like novak has won their last 8 matches in a row or something. besides, you might wanna be careful what you wish for! :O

i don’t think i am defeatist; i just like to take a more nuanced perspective i guess.

anyhow, i won’t interfere with your p.o.v. TB

elina Says:

You guys! Not exactly sure what there is to brag about. Roger routinely beat Novak when Roger had the age advantage and Novak is balancing the head to head now that he is in his prime and Roger is older. They are 4-4 in their last eight meetings and Roger still leads the head-to-head.

Over their careers taken as a whole, neither has dominated the other.

jane Says:

elina, what is “prime’ though? i am curious.

or what? i’d like to know. :)

novak was 23-24 in 2011. was that his prime?
what about now?

novak is 28 this friday; is that his prime?

if so, then, was fed in his prime at 28? that’d be 2009. was that fed’s prime too?

remember, nadal is just 1 year older than novak and andy, so was he in his prime last year?

see how confusing it is?

Ron Smith Says:

To anyone saying this is a weak era….obviously, you’ve never played tennis at a high level or you’ve ignored how good players have gotten. This is one of the best eras there has ever been. The off court training from players has only gone up. Players are getting stronger and stronger. There are a lot more upsets now and it’s just so hard to consistently dominate. This is why it’s so hard to believe how well Novak is playing. The only difference is that Rafa is showing his age and Fed is older. Everyone else is better and there are a couple of good players that have gone MIA like Delpo and Soderling which is unfortunate. However, it is getting old from the butt hurt Rafa fans and Fed fans that are saying this is a weak era.

Michael Says:

It is gratifying to hear from Soderling who still holds the distinction of being the only man to thwart Rafa’s swashbuckling stuff at Rolland Garros. If not for him, Rafa would have won an incredible 10 consecutive titles at Rolland Garros which would be one of the most phenomenal feats in the annals of Tennis history. I was fortunate to see that match live and what an impeccable, intimidating and imposing match Soderling played to quell Rafa’s never ending quench of thrist.

He also holds another record of breaking Roger’s amazing quarter final streak at the same venue. Thus, both these performances combined have taken him to a different level and etched his place in Tennis history for the times to come.

Nevertheless, it is tragic to note that he has almost given up Tennis and might not be seen any more with the Mono causing a devastating impact in his fledging career. I still remember Berdych praising Soderling after being decimated by him in a Tournament (name which I do not remember) claiming that it was the best match played against him by any living player. Soderling is such a high voltage player that on his day, he will virtually destroy his opponents with his flat strokes and booming serve.

I only wish him well in life and he is right when he says that Tennis isn’t everything. But, as fans we really miss Soderling and his majestic presence on court. A player who promised much, but delivered little with destiny playing a cruel part to cut short his flying career.

Michael Says:

And the player who must thank Soderling the most is Roger Federer. If not for him, he would never have won the only grand slam title that eluded him right through his career with Rafa stuck as a thorn in his flesh making him bleed profusely with his repeated victories causing much consternation and a set back in his glorious career. It was a classic case of “so near and yet so far” until Soderling came and conquered causing a major earth quake by his four set victory over Rafa. Once Rafa vanished from the scene, Roger realized that this was the year when things would fall in place and enable him to become the Champion. To his credit, Roger stood up to the tremendous pressure despite Media’s constant barraging that this was the only opportunity available to Roger to win the ever eluding title. And Roger, the Champion that he is, made use of the excellent opportunity and added it in his grand slam collection.

jane Says:

still curious what “prime” is…

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Any number only divisible by itself and 1.

happy to help!

jane Says:

^ lol, but seriously, elina or anyone else who cares to touch that one… :)

elina Says:

Well it is confusing jane because it is subjective most of all and it varies from player to player.

I think it is when players are at their respective peak production, perhaps bookended by their first and last multi-slam years).

Sampras: 1993-1997 (9 of 14 slams won)
Roger 2004-2009 (14 of 17 slams won)
Nadal 2008-2013 (10 of 14 slams won)
Novak 2011-???? (7 of 8 slams won)

Going by Nadal and Roger (who each had six “prime” years), Novak has until end of 2016 and might add 1-2 slams after that.

So it is fun using this anecdotal model to estimate that Novak with eight slams to date, will add another two this year, two next year and two after his peak years are over or so for 14-15 career slams.

He is one of the all time greats!

Giles Says:

Now I know why I never ever liked the Sod!

jane Says:

thanks elina. that’s what i was thinking last night; that it is subjective and that it does vary from player to player. so while you make valid cases above with slam numbers, another might make a different (perhaps just as valid) case with other evidence. but i really appreciate this post and your other thoughtful input.

Matador Says:

Prime Federer: 2003 – 2012
Prime Nadal: 2005 – 2014
Prime Djokovic 2007 – 2016

Well prime Murray is irrelevant in the discussion.

jane Says:

^ 9 years for each then matador?! interesting.

Travis Bickle Says:


Prime Djokovic 2007-2008 & 2011-2018

MMT Says:

“jane Says:
cf1, i don’t think MMT was arguing that today’s top 10 is a weaker field. a poster named bertie was.”

Thank you Jane – I merely provided the answer to your question about Federer’s major tally and Nadal’s at this time in 2009.

Of all posters on this blog, I am absolutely the last one who would suggest that a field in one year is stronger/weaker, than another.

Matador Says:

Prime Djokovic 2007-2008 & 2011-2018

Lol. You cant be so desilusional. To think Nole can sustain this level more than next year is frankly beyond words. Come on, you can be more realistic and dont expect miracles because it doesnt exist. Even with this lost generation with their level so below previous one, is imposssible to expect the serbian to win more than 5 majors with 28+.
If you believe that prepare for deception.

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