Robin Solderling, the conqueror of the king of clay Rafa Nadal at the 2009 French Open, today added Roger Federer to his trophy case at Roland Garros.
The powerful Swede bludgeoned Federer with his serve and forehand ending the Swiss maestro’s time atop the French Open and his unparalleled streak of reaching 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals. Ivan Lendl and Rod Laver are a distant second with 10 apiece.
The victory, Soderling’s first ever against Federer, also could end Roger’s reign at No. 1. If Nadal wins his fifth French title, he will regain the perch and stop Fed’s push toward supplanting Pete Sampras as the all-time weeks’ holder atop the men’s game. Of course, Solderling, who stopped Rafa from eclipsing Bjorn Borg’s mark of four consecutive French crowns when he ended Nadal’s 31-match winning streak in Paris last year, may have other ideas. Last year, after his monumental triumph over clay ruler Rafa, Solderling was beaten in straights by Federer, who tied Sampras’ mark of 14 major titles in earning the career Grand Slam at Roland Garros. Federer broke Sampras’ mark with a thrilling win over Andy Roddick at Wimbledon and added his 16th major against Andy Murray at the 2010 Australian.
Federer easily won the first set on Tuesday, holding without jeopardy. But Soderling broke earlier in the second set. Play was interrupted by a rain delay at 5-5 30-15 Federer in the third. When they returned, Rog won the next point, before Robin scored the next four to win the crucial 11th game.
From there it was almost all Soderling. Reminiscent of Juan del Potro pulverizing Federer’s run of five straight U.S. Open wins at Flushing Meadows last September, Soderling overpowered his opponent with 49 winners, mostly off his club of a forehand. Fed couldn’t consolidate an early break in the fourth and then had to rely on his serve to stay afloat as long as he did, before succumbing in the decisive set.
Thus for the second consecutive year, Soderling has ruined NBC’s café and croissant dream matchup of Federer and Nadal in the French finale.
For its part, Tennis Channel — when the rains came — lost a chance to show the conclusion of the historic match live. ESPN2, which sublicenses the rights to Roland Garros from Tennis Channel, got to show Soderling as he pushed Federer off the court and concluded his record semifinal skein.
ESPN2 will encore the match in its entirety this afternoon; Tennis Channel then will serve it up again on its French Open Tonight.