BBC BLOGS - Jonathan Overend
« Previous | Main | Next »

Soderling ends amazing Federer run

Post categories:

Jonathan Overend | 20:18 UK time, Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A colossal tennis match, full of heavyweight hitting with lines being struck consistently by both men, ended with a fully deserved first win in 13 attempts for Robin Soderling over Roger Federer.

It brought one of the most amazing streaks in sport crashing down.

After reaching the semi-finals or better in his last 23 Grand Slam championships, this was Federer's earliest defeat at a major since the French Open of 2004.

I hope this sequence is never forgotten - it will almost certainly never be repeated - because it's the ultimate statistical record of Federer's dominance, fitness and ability to peak at the right time.

On the day he was outhit by an inspired Soderling who, after beating Rafael Nadal last year to end the Spaniard's unbeaten record at Roland Garros, returned to the same court for the second year to unseat the defending champion.

The world number one started superbly. He knew Soderling's game plan would be instant aggression, first hits in rallies, so he simply had to get in there first.

With supreme trust in his own ability, Federer hit 12 winners in the first 18 minutes.

It was Federer at his soaring, jumbo-jet best, and by that stage it already looked the match of the tournament. From there it was never in danger of being anything less.

The rain delays proved crucial and Soderling undoubtedly dealt with them more confidently. At such a pivotal point, 5-5 in the third set, it was all going to be about who restarted the better.

And even though Federer won the opening point to move to 40-15 in that game, he lost four points in a row from there, including a dire double fault at deuce, and the Swede was in front, never to look back.

Soderling had lost all 12 of his previous serious matches with Federer but, however much pundits love their head-to-head records, current form should always count for more.

Having seen quite a bit of Soderling here in Paris this year, especially his dismantling of Marin Cilic in the last round, I have to confess to having a sneaky, metaphorical wager on the Swede (and yes I did say that on the radio, before you start throwing hindsight around!)

It means we won't get a Federer v Nadal final - they're leaving that to Wimbledon; it means Nadal can edge closer to regaining the number one ranking; and it means Soderling is now a genuine major championship contender.

How can he not be after a performance like that?


  • Comment number 1.

    Yes Fed made 23 consecutive semis in a skills challenged era(just look at whom he had to beat to get to last years semis) and yes Laver is "tied" with Lendl for second with 10. The problem is that Laver from 1960-62 made the ten straight(winning the calendar year grand slam 1n 62) and then was not allowed to play in the next 21 majors in his most prime years(24-29). Finally when he is allowed to play in majors again at age 30-31 he wins his second calendar year grand slam(third if you count his pro grand slam in 1967). His grand slam in 1969 was against all hall of famers! How many semis do you think that he would have made? Another thing to consider about Laver is at his peak he was allowed to enter into 11 majors and WON 9 of the 11.
    History aside Fed played and MOVED well in this tournament. He played very good tennis today. I believed that he was going to win his first calendar year grand slam this year. I was wrong. I still believe that today he is the best player and should be the favourite to win both Wimbledon and the US Open. He is still a great player and will win MANY more majors. He is only 28!! Sampras won a major at 31 and Laver won a calendar year grand slam at 31!!

  • Comment number 2.

    The era of Federer really came to an end. that was how i felt throughout the match.
    the match exactly showed how power with certain accuracy overmaster technique and strategy.
    more and more players with powerful serve + strong baseline shots will come out and dominate the game..cilic, soderling, delpo, Berdych..especially in the high tech era strengthening the rackets. The strategy of the tennis game is goint to be simplex. But i dun think they can maintain their level long because of the overuse of body strength, just like Safin, Djoker, delpo.
    Let's value the remaining time for savoring the various techniques and styles of tennis shown by one of the greatest.

  • Comment number 3.

    What an amazing French Open so far - Henin defaeted by the rain, Venus defeated by the power, Murray defeated by his own demons.....and now.....Roger Federer, best tennis player that ever walked the earth......defeated by the creature also known as Soderling.

    To his acclaim, Soderling was imperious as he was against Nadal last year, yet more so against Federer. 2009 looked strenuous compared to the complete destruction of the reigning champ, something Rafa must be tossing and turning over tonight.

    Was Roger out of sorts? Was Soderling brilliant?

    A tough one to call, but I have to go with the former..............

  • Comment number 4.

    He better not crumble in the final this year...Sod was the ice man out there this time, and he knows he can beat Rafa in Grand Slam tennis...would be amazing if he won the title just as everyone is saying he can't match his points from last year!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 6.

    Federer paid for his lack of consideration towards smaller tournaments, in my opinion. Led to lapses that are rarely seen in his Grand Slam game.

    Still by an absolute mile the greatest tennis player of all time.

  • Comment number 7.

    nobody beats Robin Soderling 13 times in a row!!

  • Comment number 8.

    23 consecutive GS semis is a ridiculous record, and I say it's one that nobody will ever beat. Every time Federer loses it's such a huge shock - I am happy to see that this year he lost in a good way, in that he went out playing great tennis and lost only because his opponent played even better.

    Soderling has a huge potential, and when he plays close to it he can beat anybody. So I hope that this year he'll be able to pull a similar performance in the semis and the final. A 100% Soderling vs a 100% Nadal in the final would make for mouth-watering Tennis.

  • Comment number 9.

    It means we won't get a Federer v Nadal final - they're leaving that to Wimbledon; it means Nadal can edge closer to regaining the number one ranking; and it means Soderling is now a genuine major championship contender.

    I agree with every word up until the last sentence. Soderling has beaten Nadal once in a major and Federer once, that is all. Until he either wins one or at least puts in sustained and consistent performances he is not a genuine contender

  • Comment number 10.

    I've admired Soderling since he went 5 sets with Nadal at Wimbledon several years ago. Mainly because he kept tugging at the back of his shorts between points. Mimicing Nadal for his then infamous time wasting between points by tugging his shorts, his hair his..anything else. Brought a smile to my face!!

    Shame the great Fed is out, and may be lose the No.1 spot he so richly earned back, again just 1 week from Sampara's all time record too!

    I think Soderling and Berdych are the ones to watch. Their aggresion and power is more than a match for Nadal's. Oddly enough, given this is clay court!

  • Comment number 11.

    Federer could not do anything at all from the Second set onwards. Soderling was just going for broke and was succeeding in it. Credit to him. But sadly as already pointed out, more and more of power hitters are dominating the sport.

    I think its a shame Federer would lose the number 1 rank if Nadal wins this tournament. Federer doesnt give his best in the other ATP tournaments and thats where he loses lots of points.

  • Comment number 12.

    santa84, if he doesn't give his best in other tourneys, he deserves to lose the top ranking.

    #1 would be just reward if Nadal were to sweep all the major clay trophies this year. Even Fed wouldn't argue with that I don't think...

  • Comment number 13.

    @ 3. At 10:56pm on 01 Jun 2010, Nadaliator wrote:

    "What an amazing French Open so far - Henin defaeted by the rain, ..."

    So 'Rain' is Stosur's new nickname now? :p

    @ 9. At 01:09am on 02 Jun 2010, hackerjack wrote:
    "Soderling has beaten Nadal once in a major and Federer once, that is all. Until he either wins one or at least puts in sustained and consistent performances he is not a genuine contender".

    He knocked out the defending champion at RG last year and made the final.
    He just knocked out the defending champion this year (the two most dominant players these last few years) and made the semi-finals and a repeat run to the final is not entirely unlikely, where he will face the man he beat last year (= confidence, self-belief and hence better play).

    I'd say that's an argument for a reasonable standard of consistency *at the same slam* (bearing in mind that Rafa, for much of his career, only enjoyed success at Roland Garros, and whilst his record for a while was not great at other slams, no one would have argued his 'consistency' on clay).

  • Comment number 14.

    Yesterday was a pure masterclass in power hitting..similar to what R-Sod did to Rafa last year.It is all the more phenomenal as it was on the clay courts of Rolland Garros;to beat Federer and Nadal two years running at a major is a phenomenal achievement in itself.If Soderling can add another dimension to his game i.e improve his game play at the net, he could be a serious contender at all the majors!!

  • Comment number 15.

    Nadal can't become world number one even if he wins RG, he would need to get to at least the quarters at Wimby and win Queens first............

    Stosur played magnificently against Henin but she didn't have to play on so many consecutive days. Stosur is my tip to win but watch out for JJ - she's coming into form at just the right time.

    Watching the highlights again, it looks like Federer lost interest after the second set, bar a few magical shots, which is odd because the one thing left he wants to do is beat Nadal in the final at RG, that would surely put an end to any (weak) argument that he is not the GOAT.

    Guessing what was going on in his head will do no good.........

  • Comment number 16.

    #2, merv_49, wrote:

    "The era of Federer really came to an end. that was how i felt throughout the match.
    the match exactly showed how power with certain accuracy overmaster technique and strategy."

    Think its a bit early to say that Federer's era has come to an end. Bear in mind that it is on clay courts where power and accuracy can overcome technique, however on all other services Fed's aggression, shot selection and - most importantly - the ability to hit those shots still leave him head and shoulders above the majority of the competition. The fact that a player with so little of a defensive game as Fed has the record he does at Roland Garros is testament to his quality.

    I have enourmous respect and admiration for Nadal but I fail to be excited by the clay court game, even when it is transposed with great success onto other surfaces.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think you missed the key stat.

    Soderling played brilliantly yesterday, no question. Federer was somewhat disrupted by the rain, and was not at his fluent best, but how do you explain why Soderling reversed a 12-0 head-to-head?

    Look at break point conversions. From the first three sets, Federer converted 1 of 6. Soderling 2 of 2. (In fact, despite being two sets to one down, Federer had won 3 more points than Soderling) In the final set, by which time the momentum was firmly with the Swede, Soderling converted 2 of 7 and Federer 1 of 1.

    Soderling won this one because he came up trumps on the big points. He did a Federer on Federer, grabbing his opportunities and making his opponent pay for his errors. There wasn't much between them yesterday, and perhaps because it wasn't a semi or a final, Federer wasn't as clinical as we have come to expect, whereas Soderling was right on the money.

  • Comment number 18.

    What I was disappointed with Fed yesterday was the fact that he really did not change things up when things were not going well. That is how I felt when he lost that epic Wimbledon final to Nadal..You just cannot outhit the big hitters from the back of the court. Long gone are those days of good old serve and volley :(

  • Comment number 19.

    @ 7. At 00:09am on 02 Jun 2010, olegunna wrote:

    "nobody beats Robin Soderling 13 times in a row!!"

    That made me burst out laughing! Oh, how I wish he'd said this in one of his post-match press conferences! (If he actually, did, can someone please provide a link!) :p

  • Comment number 20.

    What's Soderling's ranking now? It must be improving with all the upset's he's caused over the last two years.

  • Comment number 21.

    @ 20

    Soderling's ranking won't improve following this result. ATP rankings run on a rolling 12 month calendar, so Soderling actually needed to do well again at the French to stay in the top-10, by defending the points he earned last year... he's just about done that, so he should remain top-10 regardless of what he does next round (and beyond).

    But to break into the top-5, say, he'll need to avoid the sort of first round loss he suffered at the Australian Open this year.

  • Comment number 22.

    @ 20. At 10:50am on 02 Jun 2010, tomtom094 wrote:

    "What's Soderling's ranking now? It must be improving with all the upset's he's caused over the last two years."

    He's ranked no 7 at the moment. He finished last year in the top 10 and ended 2008 in the top 20. He's been making a steady progress up the charts.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ Nadaliator: Nadal can actually become the world number 1, but he has to win the title. If he fails to do so here, then providing there is no shock early exit result for him at Wimbledon, he will take the top spot then. Federer's total ranking points has gone from 10030 to 8390, and if Nadal wins his points go from 6880 to 8700.

    @ The_same_Eddie_George: Soderling can actually break the top 5 by winning the title, which would see him claim Andy Murray's 4th place. However should he lose against Berdych in the semi finals or if he loses in the final against Nadal/Djokovic/Almagro/Melzer he will, like you say, actually drop places down to 8th (from 6th). Soderlings has 4755 ranking points now, he'll drop to 4275 if he loses in the next round, 4555 if he loses in the final (ranking points for an appearance in the final have changed from 1200 to 1000) and will rise to 5555 points if he wins. Andy Murray now has 5385 ranking points.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ 23

    Impressive maths (though he is currently 7 in the world, not 6)! I would certainly expect Soderling to improve his ranking if he were to win, so thank you for confirming.

  • Comment number 25.

    You've got to give enormous credit to Soderling for winning the match. Coming in with such a negative record & going down a set was a real test of character. He really believed he could win & never backed off at any stage of the match.

    If you look at the stats it's hard to find any fault with Federer's game. He hit a lot of winners & made fewer unforced errors. Against anybody bar Nadal he would have won the match.

    I think the heavy conditions did help Soderling. Firstly he has the power to hit through the court even in those conditions. And secondly the slowness of the court allowed him to really wind up on his shots. On a faster surface this would not be the case.

    I am little surprised that Federer did not use the drop shot a bit more to unsettle Soderling but I suppose the Swede was hitting such a heavy ball that it made it hard to execute that shot.

    As much as I love seeing Nadal & Federer face each other this result has really mixed things up, which is definitely a nice change. The Berdych v Soderling semi-final should be an interesting match as both players are playing extremely well. And I think either player could give Nadal a tough match in the final. It should be a fascinating couple of days for tennis fans.

  • Comment number 26.

    I strongly believe that the match conditions favoured Soderling. Although people might argue that the playing conditions were same for both players (Federer himself said this), the rain made the balls heavier, which favoured Soderling. Absurd it may sound, but what you think would have happened had the surface behaved like a grass court as a result of rain?

    The other turning point of the match was Federer's failure to convert break points in the first game of second set. From that moment onwards, Soderling got all the confidence he needed.

  • Comment number 27.

    The heavy conditions certainly favored Soderling’s flat hitting style. But he fully deserved that win... Serving consistently at 223km/h was out of this world!

    Fed had a similar opponent last year in Del Porto, but the difference was that Fed’s serve got him out of any trouble that time. You do sense that Fed is most vulnerable if he has no rhythm on serve and Soderling exploited this superbly. Tough match for him in the semi’s but if he makes the final, he will have a lot more confidence than last year.

  • Comment number 28.


    It's in reference to this.

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks to Money for spotting the error - still present on Piers Newberry's article: - that Laver only got to 8 consecutive semis. The record shows he got to 10, from the 1960 Wimbledon to the 1962 US.

  • Comment number 30.

    @19 This is a paraphrase of the comment originally made by Vitus Gerulaitis:

    "And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row"

    – after finally beating Jimmy Connors at the 1979 Masters following sixteen straight losses.


  • Comment number 31.


    I'm not going to sit and read all of the posts here but everyone seems to be making a slight error with regards to the SemiFinal record. Lendl is second but he only managed NINE (9) in a row not ten as there was no AO in 1986. The BBC article says its 10 for Lendl, as do many people all over 606 etc..

  • Comment number 32.

    Actually your wrong thegreatNEb. It definitely is 10, even though there was no Aus 1986.

    I can't be bothered to explain why.

  • Comment number 33.

    ' ended with a fully deserved first win in 13 attempts for Robin Soderling over Roger Federer'

    Er - get your facts right. It was the first 'official' win, not the first win, for Robin Sodeverything. Södö beat Fed 6-7, 7-6, 6-2 the last time they met, in a small invitation-only tournament in Abu Dhabi on New Years Day (an unofficial lotsamoney event for which Murray was defending champion but he sacrificed this year to play Hopman Cup instead).

    Sure, it goes down as an exhibition match, but in Södö's mind - which is all that matters - he knew before yesterday's match that he'd already got the Fed monkey off his back.

    Now Södö isn't one for precedent, so we don't need to keep in mind that after he beat Fed in January, he went on to lose to Rafa in the final in a close match.

  • Comment number 34.

    I might be wrong but I sadly feel that Roger's best tennis is behind him. It is true that Sampras won a major at 31 but that year he played inconsitently and never won a tournament. Roger Federer has lsot his aura of invincibility at wimbledon in 2008 when he fell to Nadal and he never recovered it. Last year's loss at the US Open at the hands of Del Potro proves that now any good top ten player can beat him on big occassions. This year Rotger has won the firsr grand slam but barring a lone final at Madrid, he lost to lesser players. I think that Roger might be able to win one or two more majors in his career but it won't be because he is the dominant player of the 2004-2007 period but rather it will be a one-off event.

  • Comment number 35.

    i really object to people trying to make comparisons between Federer and Laver. There can be no comparison.
    when laver played there were any number of people capable of winning tournaments. for most of Federer's career, he has not really been challenged. That is not to say he his record in nothing short of amazing however it needs to be put into perpsective. we won the french open last year by default. when a capable challenger came along (Nadal) it is the latter who has won more majors.
    and look at Laver's record over the years before and after his "ban" from the majors; it is breath taking. add to that the likelyhood of 75% success of the majors in which he could not compete and you will get the true difference between the two players.
    Federer is good but not in Laver's class in my opinion.

  • Comment number 36.

    20+ straight semi-finals plus he has played last 5 GS finals and won 3 what else you can ask from a professional. Surely there will be a decline as he grows but he is a fantastic player and plays with grace. Aussi open this year was once of his great performance. He is not a master technician
    on clay but having won last year has helped him alot, he is ore relaxed. Hopefully 5 more years of tennis and we will surely see him in more finals!!!

  • Comment number 37.

    #34, petitprince, wrote:

    "I might be wrong but I sadly feel that Roger's best tennis is behind him."

    You may well be right, but bearting in mind how far ahead of the pack, how flippin good Fed was when he was playing his best tennis I think this still gives him the leeway for another major or two as you said.

    I'm going to be interested if we see a bit of an Indian Summer from Fed in a few years time. As much as his family life is settled and appears to be making him happy, you can't change the fact that the arrival of a baby (or two!) changes someone's life in every way. Doesn't matter how rich or successful you are. Even if it isn't a huge practical change (and I'd wager it is), then your priorities and your mentality changes.

    A few years to move through that phase and I genuinely believe that Fed could pick up his game again, if not to his earlier hights then at least as an improvement on where he is now (not that he's too shabby at the moment).

  • Comment number 38.

    Why do people keep saying "Federer hasn't been challenged" as if it means Laver or whoever else is better, despite the records.

    Ever consider that maybe no one has come close to Federer because he is just too good?

  • Comment number 39.

    There seems to be a change in the air where clay is concerned. Namely, that the biggest hitters are treating the court almost like a grass court and blasting clean winners from the baseline past the best players. Look at Berdych and Soderling and how they took apart Federer, Murray and Youzhny. It may be a fluke, but they're both big, big men, with huge weapons.

    Interesting to see whether Nadal can take that on and win.

    Assuming of course that he beats Melzer first.

  • Comment number 40.

    Well were we too early to jump on Murray's back? Look at the players he had to get by. The weather disruption he had to contend with. Once the other top seeds met the big hitters they struggled after all playing mediocre players. Even Nadal has had a pretty simple passage and I predict will not win unless he adds more than heavy baseline shots.

  • Comment number 41.

    @36 "20+ straight semi-finals plus he has played last 5 GS finals and won 3 what else you can ask from a professional."
    I think you're understating Fed's stunning consistency. He's played in the last 8 slam finals. And other than the blip in Australia '08, he's reached 18 of the last 19 finals. I can't see anyone beating that for a very long time. Not even Rafa.

  • Comment number 42.

    money at 10.30 - you are being very selective regarding your tennis memory / history. yes laver reached 10 semis in a row from 1960 - 62 but please dont forget that was when he was an amateur and gonzales / hoad and rosewall had all turned pro by that time , and one of them at least would have beaten laver comfortably.if you study laver's tennis record he really only started beating those 3 consistently by about 1965 / 1966. so it just goes to show you can only talk about records NOW and not compare over the years , and federer's record of 23 semis stands out on its own

  • Comment number 43.

    There is no doubt that Roger is the greatest tennis player of all time! And probably one of the greatest athletes of all time.
    Not sure why so many folks are so hasty in predicting his downfall. Yeah, he might not be as dominant as 2005 - 2007; but give him a break. Soderling played a great match against Roger's B+ game. It did'nt look like Roger wanted to win as badly as he did in the past. I'll be surprised if he does'nt win at least Wimbledon or US Open or possibly even both.

  • Comment number 44.

    I don't get it when people use the excuse that Federer didn't play his 'A' game each time he loses. If you are playing in the latter stages of a grand slam, you are expected to turn up and put in the shift no matter who you are. After seeing Del Potro and now Soderling take him apart, his aura of invincibility is now surely gone.

  • Comment number 45.

    Federer is the most consistent player of his era, unlike Sampras he uses all the tools available to him and is not robotic.

    Impossible to compare Laver to Federer as each would have adapted their game to the competition around at the time.

    For pure joy you cannot beat Edberg at his peak - even in the seniors his artistry shines through.

    Federer will come back, class will out.

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.