Roger Federer out of the French Open

Jun 1, 2010

When writing these blogs, I always set aside one or two for things that may come up unexpectedly in the tournament; newsworthy side anecdotes, steamy revelations, thrilling upsets. This time last year I had to squeeze in one about Rafael Nadal being beaten by a certain Robin Soderling, and that was probably the most shocking bit of news I have so far had to write about, up there with Juan Martin del Potro winning at the US Open.

Well what happened only about an hour ago, in my eyes, beats Nadal going out of the French Open early, beats Delpo taking the US title. Roger Federer, the world number one, has been ousted from the tournament in a stunning upset, and who was the orchestrator of his demise? Robin Soderling, again. The phrase ‘pulling a Soderling’ seems offensive now; this man is not just a one-trick player, he has a real mental and physical strength that could outstrip an on-form Federer at a Grand Slam.

Things seemed business as usual at the start of the match, with Federer taking the first set 3-6. But nobody beats Robin Soderling 13 times in a row. It didn’t take long for things to start swinging the Swede’s way. He broke Federer in the second set and took it 6-3, and soon the momentum was picking up and Federer seemed unable to stop it. His serve faltered, and the Swede’s serve only got better and better. Federer handed him a few opportunities with some unenforced errors, and Soderling picked them up and played like them out like a true champion. The heavens opened for a moment or two and Federer must have breathed a sigh of relief at the idea of a rain delay, which would give him time to collect himself and get back in the game. Unfortunately, the heavens weren’t on his side and they were back in play minutes later. Energised and with a win inches away, Soderling took his stunning performance to the very last point. The final scoreline was 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4, and if you didn’t manage to catch the match I would suggest trying to find a video of it somewhere.

It’s not surprising to hear about Federer being beaten in masters tournaments, where he often takes things a little slower, and it was enough of a shock when del Potro managed to beat Roger in a Grand Slam final. But for the Swiss master to go out in the quarter finals of a Grand Slam? I’m a writer and I’m finding it difficult to put things into words. This would have been Roger’s 24th consecutive Grand Slam semi-final; the second highest consecutive grand slam semis total is Ivan Lendl at 10. 23 consecutive grand slams is nearly six years of Grand Slams. The amount of skill and presence of mind and body to achieve that is unfathomable. This will be the first time since the Australian Open in 2008 that Federer won’t made it into a Grand Slam final. And all of this as Nadal seems intent on claiming the clay for his own again. If Rafa wins, that means Roger won’t be able to match Pete Sampras’ record of 286 weeks at number one. The ramifications will shake up a huge chunk of recent tennis history.

So I now strike the phrase ‘pulling a Soderling’ off my list of annoying journalists quips. This man is more than just a catch phrase for pulling a fast one on a champion. Everybody sat up to take notice of Robin Soderling last year, but this year they’ll be salivating at his heels to know how he managed such a feat two years running. And now the competition feels like new, unchartered territory. Who to pick now as the winner? Tomas Berdych was hugely impressive against Mikhail Youzhny, beating him 6-3 6-1 6-2, and Rafa isn’t going to go away without a fight. Who knows, with the shadow of Roger lifted from the tournament maybe the glint will come back to Djokovic’s eye, the man has a reputation of being a bit of a dark horse.

For many years, it’s just been a given that Roger will make it through to at least the semi finals of a tournament. Now one of the most staple elements to a Grand Slam has gone, and where it once was is Soderling, ready to take on semi-final opponent Tomas Berdych. Tomorrow, we will know who squares up in the second semi-finals, and the two ultimate finalists. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it.

- SophieG

Written by: SophieG

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