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Always the Quiet Ones

Posted by gauloises1 on October 26, 2009

Nice piece on the quiet chap from Tibro from The Times:

Spend half an hour with Robin Soderling and it is not surprising that few in tennis can say they really know the lawyer’s son from Tibro, the furniture centre of Sweden. “I’m very quiet, especially on the tour,” he said. “I’m always extremely focused, I feel as if I’m in my own little world sometimes and don’t see what’s happening around me.”

[…] It has taken Soderling time to make his impact; he is 25 and has been playing in grand-slam tournaments since 2002. The reason why his rise has been gradual rather than meteoric becomes clear as he reminisces. “I’ve had various problems with injuries, so that it was only really last year that I was able to play enough and practice enough to be able to put a run together,” he said. “I finished the year at 17 in the rankings, so I knew I had a chance to getting better if I could play more.”

The last and most painful of those injuries can at the end of 2007 when he hurt his left wrist against Safin in Montreal in August and did not play the rest of the year. Murray’s concern? A left wrist injury. “I hope it’s not exactly the same as mine because I was out for six months,” Soderling said. “It was tough and I had to occupy myself by doing lots of other things, practising the serve, working on my fitness, because I couldn’t hit a backhand at all.”

In 2009, he has been outstanding. In all of the grand slams bar the Australian Open, he has buried his previous poor performance records to reach the final of the French Open, the last 16 at Wimbledon, the quarter-finals of the US Open (losing on each occasion to his career nemesis Roger Federer). Of course, it was in Paris where he came of age, breaking Rafael Nadal’s unbeaten record at Roland Garros in the fourth round, taking Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Gonzalez out in the next two and waking up a little too late to disturb Federer’s march into history in the final.

What had made his victory over Nadal all the more remarkable was that on a chill evening in Rome a few weeks earlier – with the Net Post in attendance – he had been beaten 6-1, 6-0 by the Spaniard. To say that the scoreline was a shoddy reflection on the match is an understatement. Soderling played beautifully at times, only for Nadal to play with his typically extraordinary defiance.

So how did he turn that around? “I knew that the margins had been very small in Rome and that if I could be 100 per cent focused, there was no reason why I couldn’t win,” he said. “Beating him was big, of course, but I was still in the tournament so I couldn’t celebrate. I didn’t want to beat him and fade in my next match. If it had been the final, perhaps I would have looked a bit happier about it.”

Then he did reach the final, to play Federer. The record was 9-0 to the Swiss before Paris (it is 12 now). “If he beats me a 100 times in a row I will still believe I have a chance against him,” Soderling said. “He always finds a way against me, he plays so fast and so aggressively, I can’t get into a rhythm. In the final, I didn’t play well at all. I was nervous, because it had been my dream to play a grand slam final and now here I was. I didn’t get a good start but I did work my way back and then played a poor tie break. He deserved it, it was a momentous day.”

The time away from the spotlight focused Soderling’s mind on the need to improve his movement and physical resilience. He is a powerful physical specimen, light on his feet which is imperative when his swing is based on such a wide arc. The indoor courts suit him well and he is playing two more events (elbow permitting) in which he should secure the points to play in London.

But don’t expect him to hog the headlines. “Fame doesn’t interest me. I always wanted to play tennis, that’s it. I’m trying every day to be a better player. I want to win the big titles. I’ve been to a (grand slam) final once and I’m still alive. I can do it again.”

3 Responses to “Always the Quiet Ones”

  1. mina said

    okay, this isn’t helping me get over the annoyingly protracted Sod phase i’ve been stuck on since Beijing…

    thanks G. no, really 😀

  2. irefusetotellyou said

    ARGH! Always love me some RobSod.

    He seems like a really well-balanced, quality guy. With the added bonus of being a “a powerful physical specimen” (hah.)

    Now excuse me while I go book a flight to Sweden to go stalk find him.

  3. linz said

    He reminds me a bit of Koyla- quiet, not interested in fame, but obviously a great guy. I’m glad he’s had such a great year =)

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