US Open: Roger Federer has a score to settle with Robin Soderling
Roger Federer used to love the sight of Robin Soderling. From Miami to Madrid, from Toronto to Thailand, the results between the Swiss and the Swede were always the same. Federer beat him 12 times in a row, winning 28 of the 30 sets they played.
This year's French Open might have changed all that. Federer had won when they met in the final at Roland Garros 12 months earlier, but on a cold and damp Parisian afternoon he had no answer to Soderling's thunderous serve and crushing ground strokes.
The quarter-final defeat ended Federer's record sequence of 23 consecutive appearances in Grand Slam semi-finals and started a five-week spell in which the Swiss lost both his world No 1 ranking and his French Open and Wimbledon titles. Today Federer and Soderling meet again here in the quarter-finals of the US Open.
The fast conditions will be back in Federer's favour — the Swiss won in four sets when they met at the same stage last year — but the five-times champion of New York will be taking nothing for granted in their first meeting since Paris.
Soderling has not looked back since last year's French Open, when, as the unheralded world No 25, he became the first player to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros and reached his first Grand Slam final. His consistent progress ever since is such that he will supplant Andy Murray at No 4 in the world rankings if he wins today.
There was a time when Soderling was regarded in the locker room as one of the less friendly faces on the tour — he even managed to upset Nadal at Wimbledon three years ago by mimicking the way the Spaniard tugs at his shorts — but his improved performances have brought confidence and maturity.
“Maybe he's more calm on the court now,” said Federer. “Maybe he doesn't see all the other opponents as enemies. Maybe he realises that the tour is not that bad as it once was. I don't think he was enjoying it as much a few years ago. Who knows, maybe his girlfriend also calmed him down.”
Soderling says there is little the two men did not know about each other's game. “I've played him so many times,” he said. “I know his game and he knows mine.”
Twelfth seed Mikhail Youzhny reached the quarter-finals with a 7-5 6-2 4-6 6-4 win over Spain's Tommy Robredo this evening.
Laura Robson reached the third round of the girls' singles with a 6-3 7-6 win over American Chanelle Van Nguyen.