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Old 06-04-2009, 10:45 AM   #465
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News & Photos / Articles / Soderling is a warrior: Magnus Norman



After only a few months working together, Magnus Norman has altered Robin Soderling’s mental game beyond recognition. Can the finalist at Roland Garros 2000 help his pupil to succeed where his master failed?

If Robin Soderling continues his incredible journey through to the final at Roland Garros, the experience will be all-too-familiar for a certain person in the Swede’s entourage. Nine years ago, Magnus Norman, who has been coaching the No23 since the turn of the year, had the Roland Garros title at his fingertips. After an intense four-set struggle, the former world No2 was finally defeated on the 11th match point against Gustavo Kuerten, 6-2 6-3 2-6 7-6(6), a defeat which the 33 year old still finds difficult to swallow.

"I often think back to that final,” Norman confides. “Of course I have regrets, because it’s a match I could have won. In almost ten years, I’ve never dared to watch that match on video. It’s just too hard.”

Bad memories

Although this defeat still leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, Magnus nevertheless manages to put a positive spin on it. “I will certainly use my experience to help Robin. Playing in a Grand Slam final is an incredible experience. I am well aware of the errors I made. I was too nervous and didn’t manage to use that stress productively. If Robin goes out on court on Sunday, I know exactly what advice to give him.”

The former champion of the Masters 1000 in Rome in 2000 was forced to put an end to his career at just 28 due to a hip injury, just like Gustavo Kuerten. He then went on to study marketing at a business school in Stockholm before swapping his rackets for a suit and tie and going to work for a company called Catella.

But he was soon tempted him back into the tennis world. Initially he coached Thomas Johansson before accepting to work with Soderling. “This challenge appealed to me more, as I feel more involved with Robin. He’s younger and listens more. I like that!”

It seems that Martina Hingis’ ex-boyfriend knows exactly how to handle the most unpopular man on the tour. In just six months working together, Magnus Norman has managed to transform the irascible giant, not by revolutionising his game, but rather his attitude on court.

Renowned for losing his temper at the blink of an eye, Soderling is now astonishingly calm. The storms in his head have died down, leaving a new, more focused Robin: one who managed to outplay clay-court titans Ferrer, Nadal and Davydenko.

Mental attitude is primary

“Before starting work with Robin, we looked into what he needed to work on. His mental attitude was an obvious priority. So we talked a lot, discussed things. Before, he was like a teenager on court: now he’s a man. He became a great warrior with a cool head. That’s the thing I’m most proud of.”

Despite never having reached a Grand Slam Round of 16 before, it is clear that Soderling is a changed man out on court. Even if he is not the most sociable man in the changing rooms, his lack of popularity does not worry the Swede in the slightest, as we saw when we met the man himself in our article “One-on-one with Robin Soderling.”

"That’s just what he’s like,” defends Magnus. “He’s often got headphones on and stays in his own bubble. Only those who are really close to him know what he’s really like. My aim is to get the real Robin out on court. If I could do that it would mean more to me than helping him win a Grand Slam.”

One thing is for sure: if Robin Soderling lifts the Coupe des Mousquetaires on Sunday, a great part of that victory will be down to Magnus Norman.
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