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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Federer sweeps past Swede

Photo Titled Robin Soderling
Robin Soderling during his 4th round match against Roger Federer on day 7 of the 2009 Wimbledon Championships.

Roger Federer trod a reassuringly familiar pathway into the quarter-finals when he defeated Sweden's Robin Soderling in their Centre Court rematch of this month’s French Open final.

The 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5) win was the five-time champion's 11th successive victory over Soderling, who knows how to give Federer good matches but not how to win them.

That triumph in Paris had come in straight sets and this one went the same way. It was a close contest but one which, once again, Soderling never looked like winning. When he did have a realistic shot at grabbing the second set in a tiebreak, he was betrayed by a couple of avoidable ground stroke errors.

Even though the result was never really in doubt, it always felt like a close match, with Soderling riding high on a potent serve, which was broken only once. Unfortunately, he never captured the Federer delivery.

And it was also costly that he seems unable to win tiebreaks against the Swiss, having come out on top only once on the 11 occasions one of their sets has gone to the "shoot-out".

In the second set, Soderling dropped just three points on his serve, yet was outplayed in the tiebreak. In the third set the Swede seemed poised to break the tiebreak drought, being two points from extending the match into a fourth set. But then the next three points went Federer's way and Soderling’s day was over.

In the opening set, Soderling had comfortably fended off the second seed until the ninth game, when a double fault and a couple of loose forehands offered Federer the break opportunity. Soderling saved the first break point but when a second one came along his weak response was another forehand error. Required simply to serve out for the first set, Federer did so comfortably, with one of his match total of 23 aces thrown in,

As game after game went with serve in the second set it was clear that Federer was content to wait for Soderling, who was the more adventurous of the two in his forays to the net, to make the mistakes while he himself piled up the ace count. Those errors did not come until deep into the tiebreak, but come they did and after an hour and 16 minutes the Swiss was two sets ahead and on cruise control.

Needing urgently to get into the match, Soderling was still undermined by a tendency to go for flashy winners when mere steadiness would have been enough. But suddenly a window of opportunity, a very small window, opened in the ninth game when a forehand service return, clocked at 100 miles an hour, offered him a break point. Federer fought that one off, and when Soderling gained his second, and last, break point with a drop shot, Federer denied him once more and held serve with an ace.

The third set tiebreak looked far more favourable for Soderling, especially when he led by five points to four after Federer, under pressure on the baseline, sent a backhand looping well out of play. His reaction could not have been more impressive, a terrific cross-court forehand levelling it on the Soderling serve.

Soderling's next serve was a disastrous double fault, his third of the match, and Federer was not required to strike the match winner, watching as a Soderling backhand service return drifted into the tramlines.
Soderling's warm congratulations and rueful smile said it all.

Centre Court - Gentlemen's Singles - 4th Round
Robin Soderling SWE (13)46565
Roger Federer SUI (2)Winner67777

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