Feds to face Soderling in Roland Garros final
Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:34
The fate of two fairytales will be settled on Sunday when Roger Federer, the man who so desperately wants to claim the one Grand Slam that has eluded him to complete his glittering collection, faces Robin Soderling – the man who ended the four-year reign of Rafael Nadal, and has proved it was no fluke by reaching the final.
The latest chapter in Soderling’s dream run at Roland Garros saw him oust his fourth seed of the tournament, outlasting a super-charged Fernando Gonazlez in a five-set thriller 6-3 7-5 5-7 4-6 6-4.
It ended, fittingly, with a booming forehand from the Swede, who had looked on course for a comfortable passage to the final as he bludgeoned his way through the opening two sets.
After Gonzalez claimed an early break in the first set to lead 2-1, Soderling was soon into his stride and took five of the next six games, securing the first set when the Chilean sent a forehand long. Gonzalez was then forced to fend off a break point in the first game of the second set as the Swede’s huge forehand continued to wreak havoc.
But the No.13 seed, feted for his own power play, hung in there with Soderling and grew in confidence as errors began to creep into the No.23 seed’s game, claiming a tight third set.
A disputed line-call at 4-4 in the fourth merely fired up the South American, who produced a bizarre protest at the line-call. The histrionics seemed to affect Soderling more than Gonzalez, who held on to his serve and took full advantage in the next game, closing out the set as the Swede first netted a backhand and then sent a forehand long.
Soon the complexion of the match had been turned on its head as Gonzalez pulled out a 4-1 lead in the decider and looked set to reach the second Grand Slam final of his career.
But Soderling maintained his composure and reeled off five straight games, producing a remarkable turnaround that began once more with a scorching forehand return winner to break for 4-2.
Having held serve he then forced further break points in Gonzalez’s next service game and converted the third with an fearsome backhand return, before completing a memorable triumph that sees him take his place in Sunday’s final.
Waiting for him there is Roger Federer, after the world No.2 kept his hopes of landing a first French Open title alive with a dramatic five-set win over No.5 seed Juan Martin del Potro.
Despite being largely outplayed for much of the first three sets, the Swiss battled on to win 3-6 7-6(2) 2-6 6-1 6-4.
And Federer, through to a record-equalling 19th Grand Slam final, admitted he had needed to dig deep to edge past the impressive Del Potro.
“I am a bit lucky but I fought – Juan Martin was playing really well,” said Federer, bidding to surpass Sampras’ 13 Grand Slam titles. “He came out of the blocks really well, with his serve and his forehand really putting me under pressure. He had the upper hand from the baseline and deserved the lead.
“It feels great to come through hard matches like these. It is more emotional, more satisfying. And I still feel fine.”
There was no doubt who the Parisian crowd were backing, but support for Federer quickly became less vocal as the Swiss struggled early on against a man he has never lost to.
But del Potro broke first in game five, and Federer looked in disarray two games later when a woeful smash saw him slip 0-40 down, and despite escaping in that game the Swiss could not survive game nine. Fierce hitting took Del Potro to 0-40 once again, and Federer gave up the set when when he netted a forehand.
The second set was an uneventful affair as both players held serve, before Federer got the crowd going as he dominated to move 6-1 clear and converted his second set point to level. But the Federer revival stalled as Del Potro broke at the start of the third and got the double break with some huge forehands in game seven before serving out to love.
Amazingly, after nearly two-and-a-half hours, Federer earned his first break point at 1-0 in the fourth set, but Del Potro took the initiative and forced a backhand error from the retreating Swiss. Finally, in a tense fourth game, Federer battled to deuce and a sublime drop shot forced another break point which he converted when Del Potro went long with a forehand.
The clinical edge to Del Potro’s game suddenly disappeared as he gave up the double break in game six with a double fault, allowing Federer to serve out. The Swiss was now keeping the 6ft 6in Del Potro constantly on the move with a succession of superb drop shots and angled sliced backhands, and broke early in the fifth.
It was del Potro’s turn to cling on, and he duly did – earning two break-back points in the following game with a beautifully judged lob, and taking the second with a heavy backhand into the corner to level at 3-3, but the Argentine was done a game later.
Del Potro recovered from 0-40 to deuce with some magnificent play under pressure, but then double faulted on the fourth break point of the game.
Federer did not look back, coming through the two remaining service games to seal victory with a rasping forehand winner after three and a half hours.
The defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for del Potro, but he wished Federer well for Sunday’s final.
“At the end of the match I congratulated him and wished him luck. I told him everyone wants him to win the title,” said Del Potro. “I wanted to be in the final, but the match escaped me. I’m very sad about it. I really wanted to be in that final, and now I’m going to have to watch it on TV.”