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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Soderling squeezes into third round

Surprise French Open runner-up Robin Soderling was pushed all the way in his 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, 7-5 victory over Marcel Granollers. Throughout the two hour 46 minute contest, there was little to separate the recent Grand Slam finalist from the man ranked 99 places below him in the world.

When these two met in Rome at the end of April, the match - won by Soderling - barely registered on the radar. Granollers had begun the season by reaching the semi-finals at Chennai and peaking at No.44 in the world but was then unable to string together two wins in a row. Soderling was on a similar run, even dropping down to the Challenger circuit when he lost in the first round at Indian Wells.

Of course, since then Soderling has been very much on the radar, thanks to his win over Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros and his run to the final on the back of some amazingly powerful and above all consistently accurate stroke-play.

Despite only ever making the finals of indoor tournaments prior to this year’s French Open, the Swede has the kind of service and power that ought to translate well to the grass courts, but Granollers matched him serve for serve in the first set.

At 3-3, and after the opening exchanges had been all about brute force, the unheralded Spaniard sliced the first drop shot of the match and Soderling was immediately unsettled. A minute later he found himself broken to love, and Granollers then served out impeccably to take a one set lead.

The second set was a cagey affair. Both players finally added more light and shade to their games as they mixed in slices, drops and forays to the net, and Soderling took the eventual tie-break 9-7, despite squandering three set points and being one point away from a two set deficit.

That was the turning point, in so much as such a tight match can be described as turning. The Swede did not drop a point on his first serve during the third set, while Granollers’ second service faltered slightly.

Soderling carved out a single break point in the third and fourth sets but it was all he needed, while Granollers could not capitalise on his one opportunity.

On such small details Grand Slam matches are often decided – and this ultimately was the difference between No.12 and No.111 in the world.

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