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Friday, June 26, 2009

Soderling struggles to subdue Spaniard

Photo Titled Robin Soderling
Robin SoderliNG
Swede Robin Soderling’s third round victory was much like a famous brand of flat-pack furniture from his homeland: functional, unremarkable and one that took longer to put together than it should have.

Soderling beat Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, 6-4 in just under two hours on Court 3 to set-up a replay of the French Open final against Roger Federer in the fourth round.

It was a workman-like performance in the best and worst sense of the words. Soderling was so consistent on his serve that Almagro did not get a break point opportunity all match. Yet it was hard work for him to manufacture break points of his own.

In the first set, Soderling won his second, third, fifth and sixth service games all to love, while in his first and fourth service games he conceded a total of just three points.

Yet the 12th seed also struggled to break down the Spaniard. In the opening set, he made just a solitary break point opportunity, which he could not convert, thus sending the set to a tiebreak.

The tiebreak was ugly. Two unforced errors, then his first double fault of the match, from Almagro gave Soderling a 5-1 advantage. But the Swede returned the favour with a succession of unforced errors - long or into the net - to make it 6-6. Not to be outdone, Almagro produced a lazy drop shot, another double fault and then a long return to lose the tiebreak 9-7.

The second set continued where the first had let off with Almagro kept at arm’s length on Soderling’s serve. When Soderling broke the Spaniard’s serve in the sixth game it was apparent he was two-thirds of the way to the fourth round – his best performance at Wimbledon yet. The third set was much the same as the second.

Soderling’s greatest weapon remains the roundhouse forehand that he had used to such great effect at Roland Garros – especially against Rafael Nadal. When he got the opportunity to unleash it today, it invariably produced a winner, or set him up for a winner. But the speed and lower bounce on grass means it is a shot he did not get to use as often as he would have liked.

Before the French Open, Soderling had enjoyed the majority of his career success indoors – he has the fourth-best winning percentage indoors among active players. Perhaps he, more than most, will be praying that his showdown with Federer is on Centre Court with the roof closed.

After the match, Soderling revealed he had been troubled by an upset stomach since Wednesday. "I played well today. I was hitting the ball very well, but I got tired. I felt okay first set, but after the first set I was tired. I didn't really move the way I wanted to, but I played okay anyway," he said.

"I didn't play any tournaments since Paris, so I just came here no grass court matches at all. But I felt like I played okay. Today I played maybe my best match so far."

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