A la rencontre de... Robin Soderling
Robin Soderling ne parle pas, il psalmodie. La voix est douce, aigüe, timide. Le sourire chafouin et le regard malicieux. L’antithèse du Suédois à la force brute décrochant ses lourdes frappes sur le circuit ATP. Docteur Robin et Mister Soderling, un joueur aussi dur et colérique raquette en main que doux et calme en dehors des courts. Mais dans la détestation de la défaite, les deux visages ne deviennent qu’un. Perdre, le Suédois abhorre tellement ça qu’il a longtemps payé le prix de cette haine anxiogène.
"Son désir de gagner est incroyable. Robin est de loin la personne la plus compétitive que j’ai jamais rencontrée", explique son ami et partenaire de Coupe Davis, Robert Lindstedt, spécialiste du double. Perfectionniste, le n°7 mondial a appris à vaincre ses démons et "arrêter de perdre des matches en s’énervant bêtement sur des facteurs extérieurs à son jeu", assure son coach Magnus Norman.
"Robin a une vraie soif d’apprendre et il est plus ouvert que par le passé. On a eu du mal au début de notre collaboration, je voulais changer sa mentalité et en faire une force. Il a fini par le comprendre", raconte Norman, finaliste comme son élève des Internationaux de France, en 2000.
"Ma routine quotidienne est la même"
Un an après sa finale inattendue l'an passé, Robin revient apaisé et sûr de ses forces. "J’aurais aimé jouer plus de matches avant de venir ici, mais je me sens de mieux en mieux depuis Rome. J’ai de bonnes sensations à l’entraînement. J’entends souvent que la terre battue n’est pas ma meilleure surface, mais je progresse tous les ans", confie-t-il à la veille de son premier tour. Son bilan maigrichon sur terre battue en 2010 n’altère pas la confiance du tombeur de Rafael Nadal l’année dernière.
Dans son comportement, Soderling, longtemps mal aimé, a su évoluer. Mais sans changer les fondamentaux de sa personnalité. "Mon quotidien n’a pas beaucoup changé depuis ma finale ici. Ma routine sur les tournois est la même. Au sein de ma famille non plus rien n’a pas bougé, on parle des mêmes choses. Pour eux, je suis Robin, pas le tennisman connu. J’ai plus de sollicitations médiatiques et extra-sportives mais je pense gérer ça très bien. Avec moi, c’est la même chose depuis que j’ai 15 ans."
Wilander : "Il est prêt pour gagner un Grand Chelem"
Quand on l’interroge sur ses agacements ostentatoires sur le court, l’intéressé assume. "Je sens encore de la colère sur le court, je travaille dessus avec Magnus. Mais bon, on ne parle que de mes défaites à cause de ce trait de caractère, mais on oublie qu’il m’a aussi permis de gagner plein de matches."
Le succès n’a pas changé l’homme. Ni le joueur, toujours aussi certain de ses qualités. Et de ses défauts. Sans se mettre plus de pression que d’ordinaire. "Je suis heureux tous les jours depuis un an, sincèrement." Pour son illustre compatriote, Mats Wilander, "il est prêt pour gagner un Grand Chelem. Il a beaucoup muri."
Mais pour le moment, Soderling ne voit pas plus que loin que le premier tour. "Je n’ai pas regardé le reste du tableau. Ce premier match sera le plus difficile, comme toujours dans les grands tournois." L’obstacle initial s’appelle Laurent Recouderc. Il est Français et 179e mondial. Le public ne sera pas en faveur de Robin, mais il n'en a cure…
Robin Soderling doesn’t speak, he sings. His gentle and melodious voice contradicts his wry smile and the mischievous glint in his eye. Is this really the Swede who smashes his way around the ATP circuit? On court, the calm and sedate Doctor Robin gives way to an irate and furious Mister Soderling, and the Swede’s hatred of losing has long been a thorn in his side.
“His desire to win is incredible. Robin is the most competitive person I’ve ever met,” says his friend and Davis Cup partner, Robert Lindstedt, a doubles specialist. Always the perfectionist, the No.7 seed has learnt to control his temper and “stop losing matches by getting angry at things that have nothing to do with his game”, says coach Magnus Norman. “Robin is always keen to learn, and is much more open than in the past. We had trouble working together at first: I wanted to take his energy and make it his force. He finally got the idea,” smiles Norman, himself a French Open finalist in 2000.
"Nothing has changed"
A year on from his win over Rafael Nadal which shocked the world of tennis, Robin cuts a relaxed figure. “I would have liked to play more matches beforehand but, since Rome, I’ve been feeling better and better. I feel great during training. People often say clay isn’t my best surface, but I’m getting better every year,” he says, despite some sketchy performances on red dirt this season.
Soderling was not always a popular figure and has rounded off some of his rough edges, without fundamentally changing his personality. “Nothing has really changed since I made the final here. My tournament routine is still the same. The same goes for my family, we still talk about the same things. For them, I’m still Robin, the famous tennis player. I have more media and non-sporting requests, but I think I’m handling that well. For me, nothing has changed since I was 15.”
Wilander: "He’s ready to win a Grand Slam"
When asked about his displays of temper, Soderling is honest – as you would expect. “I still get angry on court, it’s something Magnus and I are working on. But people only ever talk about my personality when I’m losing. They forget it also helps me win loads of matches.”
So success has not changed Robin Soderling, on or off the court. As a player, he’s still just as sure of his strengths…and his weaknesses, and sees no reason to heap any extra pressure on himself: “Honestly, I’ve been happy every day for a year,” he smiles. And according to his compatriot Mats Wilander, “he’s ready to win a Grand Slam. He’s grown up at lot”.
For the moment, Soderling is just focusing on the first round. “I haven’t even looked at the rest of the draw. The first match is going to be the most difficult. That’s the way it goes in big tournaments.” And that first hurdle is Frenchman Laurent Recouderc, No.179 in the ATP rankings. The public are unlikely to be cheering for Robin, but we can expect to rise above it…
'The man who beat Rafa' is out to repeat his feat of clay
Soderling is forever reminded of famous win as Paris puts a spring in his step
By Paul Newman
Sunday, 23 May 2010
'When I was growing up there were so many good Swedish players,' says Robin Soderling. 'I loved watching tennis on TV. There was always a Swede doing well in every tournament, so it inspired me'
It may not come for a while yet, but Robin Soderling is looking forward to the day when nobody mentions the match he played on 31 May 2009. It was, after all, only a fourth-round encounter and he has played 383 other matches as a professional. He has also won five singles titles, appeared in a Grand Slam final and earned more than $6.3m (about £4.4m) in prizemoney.
For the next fortnight, however, the Swede is prepared for a constant flow of reminders about the result which L'Equipe, the Paris-based sports daily newspaper, playing on the French term for clay (terre battue), described as a tremblement de terre, or earthquake.
You would be hard-pressed to come up with a greater shock in the history of men's tennis than Soderling's four-set defeat of Rafael Nadal at last year's French Open. The Swede was regarded as a journeyman, little more than cannon fodder for the game's big guns as they targeted the biggest prizes.
Nadal, attempting to win the Coupe des Mousquetaires for a fifth time, was the world No 1 and apparently unstoppable on Parisian clay, having won all his previous 31 matches at Roland Garros.
To the eyes of a disbelieving world, however, Soderling blasted the Spaniard off the court with his thunderbolt serves and bludgeoning groundstrokes. He went on to reach the final before losing to Roger Federer.
It was a match that may well define the 25-year-old's career, but Soderling has never watched a video of it and says he rarely thinks about it. "You play so many matches and there's always the next one to think about," he said. "You're never better than your last match. Even if you win a tournament, you might go to the next one and lose in the first round."
The rest of the world, however, is less inclined to forget. Soderling admitted: "For a long time afterwards people came up to me and said: 'Well done against Rafa.' It doesn't happen quite so much now, but at the end of last year I was always hearing people say: 'Oh look, that's the guy who beat Nadal.' It got to the point where I really felt that I didn't want to be remembered just as the guy who had beaten Nadal. Today, though, it's different, because I think I've played well for a while now."
Although Soderling insists that he was on an upward curve before he beat Nadal, he admits that the victory gave him the confidence to take his game to another level. Until that point he had been ranked in the world's top 100 for more than six years without ever looking likely to make a major breakthrough. In 21 previous appearances at Grand Slam tournaments, he had never gone beyond the third round.
"I remember when I first broke into the top 100 in the middle of 2003," Soderling recalled. "I wondered whether I would ever be ranked better than that. I said to my coach: 'At least I reached the top 100.' He said: 'I'm sure you're going to do much better.' But it was tough. There are so many good players out there."
In the wake of last year's French Open, Soderling won the title in Bastad, reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and the quarter-finals at the US Open (losing to Federer on both occasions), made the latter stages at a succession of tournaments and rounded off the best year of his career by beating Nadal and Novak Djokovic, then the world Nos 2 and 3 respectively, on his first appearance at the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London. He broke into the world's top 10 and is now at a career-high No 7 in the rankings.
Soderling says he feels no pressure to succeed at this year's French Open, which begins today. "I've played really well at the start of this year and made a lot of ranking points," he says. "Even if I lose in the first round at Roland Garros, I will have made more points than I made last year. I still feel pretty good and it will be nice to go back, especially now that I know I can play well in Paris."
In the wake of Nadal's defeat last year, it emerged that the Spaniard had been suffering knee trouble – he was out of the game for more than two months and was unable to defend his title at Wimbledon – but Soderling had been unaware of his opponent's difficulties. He gives Magnus Norman, his coach, the credit for making him believe that he could dethrone the king of clay.
"Before the match Magnus said that I should imagine seeing the next day's newspapers, that I should picture myself winning," Soderling said. "He told me to believe that I could win."
He sees the rejuvenated Nadal as the favourite at Roland Garros this year, but insists there are "maybe 10 guys in the world who could win". He added: "Of course Rafa's the best in the world on clay and it's not going to be easy to beat him, but nobody can win every match forever, not even Rafa or Roger."
How would Soderling describe his own game? "I think it's solid. I have a pretty good serve, a good forehand, my backhand is pretty solid. Of course there are a lot of things I have to work on, but I don't feel like I have any big weaknesses. If you look at all the top guys, that's how they play. Every aspect of their game is very good.
"I feel pretty much the same as I did a year ago, but I think the big difference is that now I can beat really good players without actually playing my best tennis. If you look at the top players – Roger, Rafa, Murray, whoever – they don't play their best tennis every match. Maybe it's only five times a year that they play their absolute best, although they still play well almost every time and win a lot of matches. I really feel that I've been doing the same for the last year."
Soderling has plenty to live up to given his homeland's tennis heritage, but he says it was an advantage to have been raised in a country accustomed to the success of men like Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg. "When I was growing up there were so many good Swedish players. I loved watching tennis on TV. There was always a Swede doing well in every tournament, so it inspired me a lot."
Borg sends occasional text messages of support and Soderling also has regular contact with Wilander and Thomas Enqvist, who was the Swede he followed most as a boy. Although Soderling has vague memories of Edberg winning his last Wimbledon title in 1990 – he was just five at the time – it was Sweden's Davis Cup victory over the United States in Gothenburg four years later that really fired his imagination.
Soderling has helped to keep Sweden in the Davis Cup's World Group, but it has not been easy. The next highest-ranked Swede in singles is Andreas Vinciguerra at No 280. "When I first started to play on the tour there were so many Swedes," Soderling said. "Travelling around was easier because we all went for dinner and practised together. Now there are just a couple of Swedish doubles players who I hang out with."
Q. You got off to a very good start and never really seemed to be challenged at any point. Were you surprised at how quick and seemingly easy it was?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah. Of course, I mean, second round of the Grand Slam, you're not expecting to win that fast. But as you said, I played well and I got off to a great start. Broke him first game and I served pretty well in the first set, so, yeah, it was a good day for me.
Q. What can you say about the condition? Was it really different from the other day? It's much slower?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, it was different. It was much colder and a little bit windy. So it was different. It was not the easiest day to play on, but I think I handled it pretty well.
Q. Is it difficult when you're that dominant to keep your focus?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, not really. You know, I played so many matches so I know that everything can happen. Of course, you have to keep telling yourself that you have to stay focused because otherwise it can change pretty the match can turn pretty quick.
But I think, you know, I did it all the way today. I was still very focused even to the end, and the last game when he played a little bit better, I was still I kept my focus good.
Q. You've had two short matches, pretty easy wins. Do you have a sense of how you're playing or how things might go further ahead in the tournament, or has it been hard to judge where your game is at?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, I don't think like that. You know, I'm happy with the two wins. As I said before, it doesn't matter how I play. What matters is that I won two matches and I'm in the third round. And I will always get a new chance to play better and better for every match.
Of course, I'm feeling good. I won two matches pretty easy in straight sets, and I didn't have to run for many hours on court so far, so I feel fresh and prepared for next round.
Q. Do you remember playing a three set match lasting one hour and 11 minutes?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, I don't remember. Maybe I did, but I don't remember.
Q. I know that we are at Roland Garros. Everyone is talking about your last year and so on, but I'm Italian. I need your thoughts on Davis Cup, even if it's very far away. I'm sorry. What do you expect, I mean, that could be part of the team then? I mean, because you are the only Swede here in the men's draw. There were times when there were five or six in the top 10. Do you see any change in the future, and why the situation is so bad, I mean, in Sweden that there is only one player, men, and there are two women, if I remember well. First time there are more women than men.
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, but I think it's pretty good for a country with only 9 million people to have a top 10 guy and two women in the main draw.
Of course it's bad if you compare to 20 years ago, but what Sweden had back then I don't think any country will have again, not even the biggest countries like France, like U.S., or Spain. So it's been very good.
I know I kind of feel we're coming back a little bit. We have a couple good juniors. Of course, it will take a while, but I think and I really hope in a few years' time we will have at least a few more players on tour again.
Q. So there is only Pim Pim Johansson who can play with you? And who else could play September?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, well, Vinciguerra played a couple matches, and he's a great player when he's healthy; same with Pim Pim. Of course we don't have that many players, but I think when we're all playing well and we're all healthy, we have a good team.
Q: How does it feel to come back to Paris as the 2009 runner-up, back when the championship was won by the Swiss Roger Federer?
A: Everybody likes going back to a tournament in which you've done well the year before. However, I've played here many times. I have good memories and others that are bad, even terrible; playing badly and losing early. You've got to focus on yourself; nothing else will work.
Q. "He threw away matches he should have won. He was upset by the wind, by the crowd, by things that weren't under his control". Those are some of your coach's words.
R. Magnus Norman has helped me. We've argued a lot, both in the beginning of our partnership and still now, to make progress. I'm not the kind of person to nod and do what I'm told without asking any questions. I always want to ask questions. I always argue in order to make progress in our work.
Q. Have you been training the mental aspect of the game?
R. Yes, but I still get angry on court! My temperament has won me many matches, but people only talk about those it has made me lose. It's true that my character has made me lose some matches... it's something we're working on. We talk a lot about it.
Q. And what do you say?
A. That it all boils down to my way of thinking. I used to focus in my feelings, in my game. But winning is what matters!
Q. Your countryman Stefan Edberg used to cover his head with a towel when switching sides. So do you. Why?
A. I don't even know when I started doing that. It's something I do when I'm playing in a large court, with many people around, a lot of activity. It's good for me to cover my eyes, take a towel, cover myself so that I can concentrate in what I must do in the next game.
Q. What were you thinking down there when playing against Nadal?
A. Same as always: "What's winning me points?".
Q. And what was it?
A. Striking the ball really well. Serving very well. That allowed me to dictate with my forehand since the beginning. I did a great job with the ball with my forehand and managed to put pressure on him. That's what one has to do against a player like Rafa.
Q. Is there any player who can repeat what you did in 2009?
A. There are at least 20 who can win Roland Garros.
Q. So many?
A. Of course. Nadal and Federer are just the most likely to do it.
Q. Many experts claim that your best surface is fast hard court.
A. The fact that many people say it doesn't make it true.
Q. Is the press unfair for depicting you as an angry Swede?
A. Who cares! That's OK with me. What matters to me is the opinion of the people who really know me. It's really hard to satisfy everyone. It's a given that not everyone likes me. I have to accept that. It would be too difficult, too tough, to be thinking all the time about what people think or journalists write.
Q. You had said you were going to play in Nice because you wanted to get used to clay before Roland Garros, play some matches... But, as in Madrid, you lost in the first round.
Q. The match with Cilic, many people, myself, we thought it would be a very close match, hard match that maybe you would end up winning. I would think you would end up winning. But it happened much faster. Unexpected score, probably. How did you feel about that? The second question is: Are you happy to face Federer again, although it's not in the final but it's in the quarters?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, I think first question I think you're always expecting a tough match, whoever you play against. Against Cilic, we never played before, but he's a great server. Against guys like him, it's almost always tough.
But I think the conditions were a little bit tough today. It was windy; it was cold; it was tough to really get in a rhythm. But I think what was the biggest difference between us is I think I served better than him. I had more first serves in, and I was able to dictate play with my forehand a little bit more.
Second one, well, I mean, it's a quarterfinal of a Grand Slam, and I have to play either one of the top four guys. Of course it's tough to play against Roger, but it's all tough matches. I hope for a good match. It's always fun to play against him.
Q. In Abu Dhabi when you won the exhibition, you said or at least you were quoted as saying that the more times you play him, the closer you get to him. I wondered if you could talk about what your best played match against him has been, and what you did right in that match that you might take into this one.
ROBIN SODERLING: We played so many times over so many years now, so it's tough to remember. But I remember a few times I played against him when I came pretty close, especially one in Halle a couple years ago when I served and returned really well.
I think that's what you have to do against him, because of course he's the best player in the world. But even against him you will always get a few chances. Then you have to take them, because he won't give you any second opportunities.
You really have to play well in the important points, which he does so well, and that's why he's so good.
Q. A year ago you came here No. 23 seed, I believe; now you're No. 5. Tell us what is so different from a year ago. Maybe part of that is tell us about Magnus Norman and what he has done to change you at all.
ROBIN SODERLING: I don't know if I changed. I think one year ago or two years ago I think I could play really good tennis. My had highest level then was pretty much the same as now, I think.
But of course I'm winning more matches, and I think I'm winning more matches when I'm not playing my best tennis, which I didn't do so often before. That's the biggest change.
Of course, Magnus helped me a lot with a lot of things on and off the court, so he's been really good for me.
Q. You've become more consistent. Is part of that Magnus?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, yeah. Him and also me. We work together as a team. I think we did a really good job. As I said, you know, I have many things to thank him for. He's been really helpful.
Q. I was wondering which would be a more satisfying victory for you, beating Nadal on clay or beating Federer.
ROBIN SODERLING: I don't know, you know. It depends which tournament, which round, whatever, you know.
They're both really tough players to beat. They're No. 1 and 2 in the world. Beating them, it's a great achievement, I think. I think you have to play your best tennis.
It's very difficult, but it's not impossible, which I showed and which many other players showed in the past.
Q. I think the clay court form before this tournament was maybe not the best. Have you been a little scared? And on the other hand, are you surprised now that it's going so well?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, no. I haven't really been scared. Of course I wanted to win more matches than I did, but I think I played in finals in Barcelona, first clay court tournament, and I end up losing in a tough three sets against Verdasco, which is not a bad tournament.
Then of course I had a bad week in Rome when I didn't play well at all. But, you know, it can happen to anyone. It can happen to, you know, Roger, Rafa, everyone. They cannot play their best tennis every week.
So it's been I think overall it's been pretty good, but I think of course I wanted to have some more matches before coming into this tournament. But now I played four really good matches, and I'm feeling good.
Q. If I understand you correctly, are you saying that basically the difference between last year and this year and maybe between a top 20 player and a top 3 or 4 player, 5 player, is that you learn how to win without playing at your best level, that is, knowing how to win without being at your top level?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, I'd like to think so. If you look at all the top guys, they're not playing the best tennis every week. Maybe you have three or four, maybe five matches in a year where you feel like you play really, really well.
The other 50 matches you still have to win, and then all the top guys, they win a lot of matches against good players without playing the best tennis. I think that's the biggest difference between a guy ranked in the top 10 and the guy ranked in the top 30, 40.
Q. You've cracked that secret. Can you tell us how it's done? Can you give us just one example of knowing how to win when you're not...
ROBIN SODERLING: Of course, winning a lot of matches against good players gives you confidence. I think this year and also last year I won a lot of matches against really good players, so my confidence is good.
You know, in matches like this, it's very often it's a couple of points here and there which decides the match. And then the guy who has the best confidence wins the match and the points most of the time.
Q. Would you prefer quicker conditions for your next match?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, I haven't really thought about it, but I think it doesn't really matter. I think I can play well on both slow and faster surfaces and conditions. So, no, not really.
Q. You're not any more an outsider, but you're one of the top players. Does that add more confidence, or does that add more tension? Does it matter at all?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, I don't think about it that much, because, you know, doesn't matter if you're ranked 5 or 50 in the world. You still have to win the matches. On court it doesn't matter what your ranking is. You still have to win the matches. I think that's how you have to think.
Q. Has your life changed at all off the court since you've become a top 10 player?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, no, not that much. Of course, it's been a little bit more hectic. I do more stuff outside the court, but, you know, I try to I try to live the same life.
You know, I think it's pretty similar. I still do the same things every day.
Q. You're not bothered on the street or when you're eating at a restaurant?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, of course, that, but it doesn't bother me that much. I always wanted to be where I am now, and I know that's the sort of things that comes with it. I have to accept it, whether I like it or not.
Q. Just to clarify just in the end on that one point, so a year ago were you somebody who, for example, when you lost those key points, would get down? And are you now a person who, when you lose those key points, you still retain your confidence and keep your energy up? Is that a difference?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, at least I try to. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not.
But, again, as I said, I think I could still play as good one or two years ago as I can do now, but it's you know, it's when I'm not playing when I'm not playing my best tennis, that has changed when I'm winning more matches now.
__________________ Nalby: 2010 Legg Mason ATP 500 Champion (Welcome back!! ) Nole: 2009 Paris Bercy Masters & 2010 Dubai ATP500 Champion Soderking: 2010 ABN AMRO Rotterdam ATP500 Champion Baggy: 2010 Sydney Champion Gulbis: 2010 Delray Beach Champion Del Pony: 2009 U.S. Open Champion (Please come back! )
Q. Two years in a row you beat the title holder. How it feels to be a giant killer?
ROBIN SODERLING: Hey, of course it's nice to beat the world No. 1 two years in a row on the center court. I think both times I play really good tennis. I think it's a great feeling.
Q. What about the statistics and now finally winning Federer?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, of course I didn't think about it that much. As I said, I think even though I lost so many times, I always have a chance to win. I came close a couple of times before, and I really feel like one or two times I actually been a little bit unlucky.
With a little bit of lucky I could have won before. Now I'm here finally with a win, and it's great.
Q. You had today the extreme focus?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, I try to be focus in every match. Yeah, I think I played really well. Even in the first set it was a pretty good set. I didn't serve that well in the first. That was the only difference, I think.
But overall, it was a great match from the start until the end.
Q. What about the weather conditions and having to stop?
ROBIN SODERLING: Of course it's tough, but I played for so many years now, and this is how it is on outdoor tennis. It can rain, so you have to stay focused. I think I got pretty used to it, so it wasn't that bad.
Q. This is a similar win you had last year against Nadal, like overpowering him with your game. Do you think that the game you played against Federer today you could have played that match maybe if you had more experience or concentration against Federer in the final last year? Of course, your game grew, but maybe it was just a matter of mental preparation, last year's final?
ROBIN SODERLING: Oh, well, of course I think I played a better match today than last year's finals. As I said, it's difficult playing in your first Grand Slam final, no doubt.
You know, now I am in there and I played on the center court a couple of times. Yeah, it was a little bit easier this time.
Q. Swedes used to be pretty big around this town. Are you gonna start a revival?
ROBIN SODERLING: Oh, I hope so. You know, when I grew up, there were so many good Swedish players on tour. I looked up to them and they inspired me.
Hopefully, you know, I can do the same with young kids in Sweden now.
Q. You mentioned you have to play in any conditions. What was it really like? Was it sloppy underfoot? Did the balls get very heavy?
ROBIN SODERLING: The balls got heavy. I think I played good matches in these kind of conditions in the past, and I think it suits my game pretty well. It was a little bit slower, but I managed to serve really well and take the ball early. It helped me a lot.
Q. Swedish conditions, eh?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah.
Q. Last year when you beat Rafa it was a big sort of celebration, your arms waving on court. It was if it was a bit of a surprise to you even. Today, very cool, controlled celebration. Did you really believe today that you could win? Was that the difference?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, I think, you know, I always believe that I can win. This is a big win, but it's not the final.
You know, still have at least one more match to play, and I don't want to celebrate too much. I want to focus on the next game.
Q. Are you superstitious? This was the 13th match in general.
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, no, I didn't think about it that way. But, you know, again, losing so many times, I think you will come closer to a win eventually. I'm really glad that I won here in a Grand Slam and not in a smaller tournament.
Even though a win against Federer, it's always big.
Q. Berdych beat you in Miami 2 2 pretty badly. Do you think there will be any possibility of a replay of that here? What happened there that won't happen here?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, the match before I beat him 1 1. (laughter.)
I know every match is a new match, and he played great this year. He's a dangerous player when he's playing good.
So of course it can happen, but I'm expecting a tough match.
Q. You're going to be the answer to the quiz question who ended Roger Federer's semifinal run forever now. Do you think that's the greatest run of its kind in sports, not just tennis?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, maybe. I mean, it certainly is not easy playing, what is it, 23 or 24 consecutive semifinals, which is just huge.
Well, it's a great run.
Q. When one thinks about clay court tennis, often one thinks of a player with great wheels, great defensive skills, maybe a big topspin forehand, run down all the balls, hang in there forever. Could you talk about your game, how it maybe is different and how it matched up today against Roger?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, yeah. Maybe I don't have the typical clay court game, but I think I can do well on every surface.
Actually, I think I kind of like the slower surface a little bit more than the really fast ones. The last couple of years I played better and better on clay.
So when I serve like this and when I'm feeling like I'm hitting the ball well like this, you know, I think maybe clay is my almost my best surface.
Q. Could you analyze for us what and where was the turning point of the match, where you sensed that Federer was pulling down when you were resting high?
ROBIN SODERLING: Of course he had some chances in the second set. First set he played well. I didn't serve so well. Then in the second it was tough for me, and I saved a couple of really important points.
So I think when I won the second set, which was very big for me, I really felt that I could relax a little bit. After that, I think I start today play better and better.
Q. Once Vitas Gerulaitis said nobody can beat Gerulaitis 17 times in a row. What about you? And is this a better satisfaction than to beat Nadal, the same thing? What is the difference? Are you more confident now than you were maybe one year ago?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, it's a tough question. You know, I think they're both big wins, of course. They were both No. 1s. They're different players, and I'm really happy that I showed that I can beat them both.
But again, you know, I don't think about it that much. Of course I lost a lot of times, so it's a great feeling to finally end that streak.
But still, you know, I don't think about who I beat. You know, what matters is that I won and that I won quarterfinals in a Grand Slam and I get the opportunity to play semifinals in two days, which is great.
Q. Each time when you tried to challenge the call and you've been booed badly, how can you manage to stay focused? You just shut all the noise outside of your game? How can you manage that?
ROBIN SODERLING: It's not really difficult. I don't really care, you know. I play for myself and I play for the win, not for the crowd.
Soderling Gets Monkey Off His Back
John McEnroe on the Soderling Victory
Robin Soderling Interview with Bill Macatee
Interview with Robin Soderling about Roland Garros - Part 1
Interview with Robin Soderling about Roland Garros - Part 2
Robin Soderling vs. Roger Federer, RG 2010, Top Shot
There are about 60 other videos uploaded in the past 4 days on YouTube on "Robin Soderling". Can someone help me out with this one?
Robin Soderlings pappa Bo Söderling
**I moved Blu's "Soderling Roland Garros" video to the Video thread as it isn't really an interview or news item. Ooops!***
__________________ Nalby: 2010 Legg Mason ATP 500 Champion (Welcome back!! ) Nole: 2009 Paris Bercy Masters & 2010 Dubai ATP500 Champion Soderking: 2010 ABN AMRO Rotterdam ATP500 Champion Baggy: 2010 Sydney Champion Gulbis: 2010 Delray Beach Champion Del Pony: 2009 U.S. Open Champion (Please come back! )
Q. Apart the score, what was the main difference between last year and this year, your opinion?
ROBIN SODERLING: Every match is different. The margins are very small. Of course I didn't play as good this year as I did against him last year. I didn't serve as well. I wasn't hitting the ball as clean.
It was tough today. I didn't really get into the match.
Q. From the beginning, you mean?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, it was tough to get into the match. You know, of course he was playing well. He was playing extremely well.
He didn't miss much, but I had to really fight today.
Q. You, yourself, you didn't feel very well?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, it was tough. Of course I can play better. I wish I could have done that, but, you know, he played great. So all credit to him.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the Berdych match and how much that took out of you going into today's match?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, it was a tough match. I think all the matches I played here has been tough in different ways, you know.
It's really difficult to stay focused for two weeks playing many matches. So they're all tough, but physically I feel fine. It was okay. It's not why I lost today.
Q. There was a little incident up with the people. Somebody fell down. Did that disturb your concentration? It was a moment where you were playing, the ball was heavier maybe, but you were starting to play inside.
ROBIN SODERLING: No, no, no.
Q. In any case, do you think there was a moment where the ball was getting, let's say thicker and heavier, and you were inside? Because from outside it seemed that you could change, let's say, at the beginning of the second set.
ROBIN SODERLING: What do you mean, the ball got...
Q. The humid conditions.
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, it was humid already from the start. So I mean, conditions were good. Of course, it was a little bit windy, but it wasn't bad at all.
So, you know, it was good for me, and I think for both of us.
Q. You said that it wasn't because of that you lost today. Why did you lose today?
ROBIN SODERLING: Because he played better than me.
Q. Second question: Did you feel that you played differently today than you have been playing the days before?
ROBIN SODERLING: How do you mean, differently?
Q. I don't know. If you have felt that you should play differently today.
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, I lost. Of course I should have played in a different way if I wanted to win.
ROBIN SODERLING: You know, I know I played many matches here, and there have been both good and matches where I didn't play so good.
So overall, it's a great week. Of course, today wasn't my best match. But as I said, he played so well today.
Q. Two questions. There's a lot of matches between when you played him here last year and now, but I'm wondering if tactically you felt like he did anything different today than when you played him before. Secondly, just can you talk about the game, the long game in the second set when you had all the break points, and if that really sort of took the steam out of you.
ROBIN SODERLING: No, I think, you know, Rafa always plays kind of the same. He has more or less one game, but he does it so well it's enough to not lose a match on clay for a whole year, which is pretty good.
But as I said, you always know what to expect when you play against him. Yeah, I think in the beginning I was a little bit unlucky; I had a few break chances. I didn't take them, so then of course it was tough.
I don't think it would have changed anything.
Q. Just two questions. First, if now is all good feelings between Rafa and you. Second, if you foresee Rafa long time as No. 1.
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, I said, I don't know, like 200 times or even more, I have nothing against Rafa. I think he's a great player.
He definitely has the chance to be No. 1 for a long time if he plays like this. On clay especially he's real difficult to beat.
Q. I think you preferred kind of rainy, humid condition. It was kind of strange weather today. It was raining, rainy morning, but kind of sunny during that match. So could you explain what kind of condition it was? I mean, it was slippy or like the ball was heavy or...
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, it was humid, and of course it was a little bit windy. But I think the conditions were really pretty good for tennis today.
Q. Could you go into, a little bit more, the difference between your incredible win last year and the tough result today? What was the difference between the two matches?
ROBIN SODERLING: Okay. (Laughter.)
Okay. You didn't listen to the first question.
Q. I listened, but I wanted you to go into more detail.
ROBIN SODERLING: You know, every match is different, and the margins are really small. Maybe he played a little bit better. I didn't play as good as I did last year. I didn't serve so well. I wasn't hitting the ball as clean.
You know, I had some chances in the beginning, but I didn't take them. And then he won the first and then played really well in the second, so then, you know, that's about...
Q. If I could ask, the problems on converting the breakpoint opportunities you had, why such a big problem today getting conversions?
ROBIN SODERLING: I don't know. He played well. Yeah, I don't know. I have no explanation why I didn't take the break points today.
Q. Obviously you know what to expect from Rafa, but is it any real frustration when winners you would hit against anybody else he goes back and retrieves it, or have you already put that past you, you know you're gonna get that from Rafa and that's the way it is?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah. As I said, you know, I think everybody knows what to expect when you play against him. That's why he's so good, because he's moving so well and gets everything back.
He's a great defensive player, but also has a great offensive game, as well. He can really change defense to offense really quick. That's why he's so good.
Q. Could anyone have beaten Rafa today on that form?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah. I think the tennis is so tough today, so I think everybody can beat everybody on a good day.
You know, as I said, I think I can beat anybody. But when Rafa is playing like this, you need to have a really good day, which unfortunately I didn't have today.
Q. Is it more difficult for you to lose this final than last year's final?
ROBIN SODERLING: No. No, they're both tough, of course. (Laughter.) Losing a final in a Grand Slam is not great. It's not a great feeling.
But, you know, I wasn't close in any one of them. I lost straight sets last year and the same this year. It's always tougher if you lose a really, really close match.
Q. You didn’t play any tournament prior to this one. Why was that? Why did you opt for not playing?
ROBIN SODERLING: It was actually the same as last year. I was entered to play Halle. I felt like after Paris I played so many matches. I finished the final on Sunday and I had to go the next day to Halle.
It was just a little bit too much. I wanted to rest that week and then have a week off and then have a week of good preparations with a lot of practice. I got in one practice match, which was very good.
Q. Those were two pretty intense weeks in Paris.
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah.
Q. Of course, you had the previous experience from last year. How did you deal with all the emotions and physical requirements you had throughout those two weeks and the following days?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, it was actually much easier this year. Last year it was a little bit tough, of course, you know, playing in my first Grand Slam final. It was really big for me. I was really tired one or even two weeks after the tournament’s finished.
But this year was much easier. I felt fine only after a couple of days’ rest. I think I learned a lot from last year’s Roland Garros, not only that tournament but from the whole last year when I played a lot of big matches against good players.
Q. We don’t know your next opponent yet because Granollers is going to play Frederico Gil from Portugal next. You know Granollers. Do you know Frederico Gil?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yes, I know him, but I never played him, I don’t think. Granollers, I played a couple times. He’s a tough player to beat. We had a really tight match here last year, and he beat me in Australia. I think either one, it’s going to be a really tough match and I have to play at least the same way I did today.
Q. Your opponent today said you gave him a drumming. He said you just served him off the court.
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, I served really well. I think when I do that, especially on grass, you know, I always play well. Of course, it’s always difficult to break me. Then I can relax a little bit in the return games.
And today I really did that. I think I played a really good first round match.
Q. He only had two breakpoints. You aced him both times.
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, that’s bringing out the best serves when it really matters. It’s great.
But, you know, as I said, when I serve well, I normally play well, as well.
Q. Any advice for him?
ROBIN SODERLING: For him? Well, you know, every match is different. He actually beat me this year in Chennai. He’s a great player. He will probably do well in the future.
Q. No Englishmen here. Just one Swedish player. What can you say? What’s going on in your country? Can you give us an official opinion?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, I don’t think I’m the right person to ask. But, of course, we had a down period in Sweden now for a while. We had so much success in the past with so many good players.
But I think it’s like that for any country. You know, you cannot produce good players all the time. I think we have a couple of good juniors doing pretty well. So hopefully, in a few years’ time, I won’t be the only Swedish player on tour.
Q. Three rounds and you've not dropped a set yet. You must be feeling very confident about your game.
ROBIN SODERLING: Sure, I think I played against three really good players, and, as you said, I didn't drop a set yet, even though maybe I was a little bit lucky to win the third set today.
But, you know, I'm serving well; I'm hitting the ball well. So far I'm feeling really good.
Q. You're one of two players to have beaten both Roger and Rafa at Grand Slams, and obviously you've done that at Paris. Can you do it again here?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah. Well, did I did once, so I'm pretty confident that I can do it more times. Of course it's not easy. They're the two best players in the world. You know, you have to play really well and you have to have a really good day.
But I think if I have that, I think I have a good chance.
Q. Have you done anything different in your preparation between Paris and coming here this year?
ROBIN SODERLING: Compared to last year? No, no, the same.
Q. Is this the best you've ever played on grass?
ROBIN SODERLING: It's tough to say. Maybe I played better matches before. I think what I'm really happy with is that I played really well for three matches, nine straight sets now, without really dropping my level too much.
That's really good. I think that's what you need to do in Grand Slams where they spend over two weeks.
Q. Does the dry weather and the higher bounce help?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah. I think it suits me well. To me, doesn't really matter. I think I can do well in any conditions and on any surface.
Q. Is your confidence at an all‑time high now given how you've been playing?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, of course I feel really good and my confidence is good because I think I've been playing really well for a year or almost a year and a half now, beating a lot of good players in big matches and in big tournaments.
So confidence is good. I think that's a really big thing in this sport.
Q. Can you explain what that feels like? If you sort of put the yourself to where you were a couple years ago, can you explain how different it feels when you step on court when you are so much more confident.
ROBIN SODERLING: When I step on court and before the match doesn't feel too much different.
It's just when you come to close moments in the match and when it gets tight, you know, I think I believe more in myself. I normally play better when it really matters.
Q. So does it make you more calm?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, and feel more calm and I believe in myself. I feel that I can go for my shots more and be aggressive. Most of the time it helps to be aggressive in big moments.
Q. You broke Rafa's Roland Garros streak and Roger Federer's semifinals streak. Which achievement are you more proud of?
ROBIN SODERLING: I don't know. They're both really good memories for me and great victories. You know, beating Rafa in Paris, he never lost before that match.
And then always beating Roger ‑‑ they were both No. 1s at the time, so it's tough to say. But they're definitely my two biggest wins in my career.
Q. Roger you beat on the 13th try, I think, and he has lost more than usual. Is he more vulnerable right now? Why? What's the main reason?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, I think it's really tough up in the top. You know, there are so many good players out there. There are so many players who can really play well and really compete for the bigger tournaments, like the Grand Slams. You know, Roger is No. 2 now, but of course he's one of the best players in the world. Maybe the best player of all‑time.
But you cannot win every match and you cannot win forever. You have to lose sometime. Even Roger has to do that.
Q. With Roger and Rafa having both been taken to five sets this year, is there a feeling that there's more of an opportunity for a group of players just behind them, such as yourself?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, not really just because of that. They both got through their matches. I know that anything can happen. You can play really bad one day, and then you wake up the next day playing really good.
They're both favorites. Roger is maybe the No. 1 favorite; Rafa is No. 2. A lot players can actually beat them.
Q. Can you talk a little bit how you have to adjust to play a left‑handed player? What is the main difference?
ROBIN SODERLING: Main difference is the returns, I think. The serve is coming from a different angle. It took a while today also to get used to it.
But I think even though he served well, I think I returned pretty well. There were a lot of games where I actually, you know, came pretty close with a lot 30‑Alls, 15‑30s. So I think I returned well today against left‑hander.
Q. Bjorn Borg sees you as a future No. 1. Do you see yourself that way?
ROBIN SODERLING: I haven't thought about it that much. But, of course, if you are No. 6 in the world I think you have a chance to become No. 1.
I know it's not easy. It's terribly difficult. And of course when you have players like Rafa and Roger, it makes it even more difficult.
I think if I can continue to play the way I do now and keep up my level for a long period, I think I have the chance. But, again, there are a lot of players that have the chance to become No. 1.
Q. Having beaten both of them and with their streaks, is it possible for you to put into words how much that's fueling the fire to break through against one of them in a situation like a Grand Slam?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, I think, you know, the first win against any player is really good. It gives you a lot confidence. To win against, you know, the world No. 1 gives you even more confidence. It will for sure make it easier to play them next time.
Q. What does an endorsement from someone like Borg mean to you?
ROBIN SODERLING: Um, of course it's nice to hear. He's a legend in tennis. You know, I think everybody knows what ‑‑ that he knows what he's talking about. He's been at the top of this game for so long. But I still have to do it. It won't happen because he says that. I still have to work hard.
But as I said, I think I have a chance if I stay healthy, if I work hard, and if I play like this.
Q. How has your life changed off court through this success?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, I do more media stuff, but that's about it. I still feel the same. I do the same things, so it hasn't changed too much.
Q. You can still walk around unworried in Sweden, or do people approach you all the time?
ROBIN SODERLING: I haven't actually spent so much time in Sweden. But I don't think Swedes are like that. They're pointing and looking more than approach you.
Q. Congratulations. Is this another important step in your career, reaching a quarterfinals at Wimbledon?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah. Well, of course it's always nice to be in the quarters in any Grand Slam.
I think last year I had my best result so far reaching the fourth round, and now one step further at least.
Yeah, it's good.
Q. Do you feel your game on grass is improving?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, yeah, I think that my game overall is improving. I think I always could do well on any surface, grass included.
So I'm playing better and better. You know, I think I can do well, again, on any surface.
Q. This was a closer contest that your last three. Is that just because the opponent was a higher standard? Do you feel you played as well today?
ROBIN SODERLING: I think I played okay. I think I played a little bit better in my previous matches. And even though I felt I was hitting the ball well, but I didn't return so well. My first serve percentage wasn't good enough.
Apart from that, I think it was a good match. He played well.
Q. How did you find playing on Court 12. It's quite a small court. Did you find that a distraction?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, not really. Of course it's a bit different compared to playing on the Centre Court and Court 1.
But, you know, that's how it is. I think all courts here are good, so...
Q. You haven't lost your service until now. He's probably one of the most underrated returners in the game. What makes him such a tough returner?
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, as you said, I think today he returned really well. He was putting a lot of returns back in court. You know, every time I had a second serve he returned really well.
Unfortunately I didn't serve so well this time compared to my last matches, but I think that's why he broke me a couple times.
Q. Was that your main problem this time round? It was such a see‑saw match. Was it because of the serve or a loss of concentration?
ROBIN SODERLING: No. Well, I think I started off the match really well, and then I had some really good chances in the second as well. I was up a break. So with a little bit of luck and if I could've played a little bit better, I think I could have taken it in straight sets.
Again, he played really well. At the end of the second and the third, you know, he returned really good. It was a tough match, so I'm a little bit lucky to have gone through this one.
Q. You had a medical timeout. Was that for anything serious?
ROBIN SODERLING: No. No. My stomach was a little bit upset. The doctor gave me a pill, and then after that it was fine.
Q. There was an instant right at the end where it looked like you spotted the ball girl looking a little bit unwell and you stopped playing. Could you talk us through what happened.
ROBIN SODERLING: Actually, at first I didn't understand what was happening. You know, all of a sudden they stopped play, and then I understood she didn't feel well. Must be tough for them to stay out there for so many hours. I hope she's fine.
It was just pretty bad timing, me serving for the match at match point. It could have happened a little bit earlier. But that's how it is. I hope she's fine now.
Q. What happened to Magnus?
ROBIN SODERLING: He played squash and he hurt his foot a bit. That's it.
Q. You're a Swede in the last eight at Wimbledon. That will excite a lot of people. What are your memories of the Swedes that came before you at Wimbledon?
ROBIN SODERLING: I remember when I was a kid, you know, I was watching Edberg playing against Becker in the finals. I always loved to watch the bigger tournaments, especially Wimbledon, such an old tournament with a lot of tradition.
So it's nice to be in the eight in this one.
Q. When you were growing up, which Grand Slam did you dream of winning?
ROBIN SODERLING: All of them. (Laughter.) Many times.
No, of course I think, for me, Wimbledon is the biggest one. Even though, you know, if I had to pick one I really wanted to win, I would pick Wimbledon.
But it would be okay to win French and US Open as well.
Q. Obviously looks like you'll be up against Nadal again. Given your success against him in the past, you must relish that contest.
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, it's gonna be an extremely tough match. He's world No. 1. We played a lot of times and had a lot of tough matches.
Again, it's a quarterfinals in a Grand Slam. It's gonna be tough for sure. But, you know, I think it's definitely easier to play him on any other surface than clay.
Q. What was the key to your success against him in the past, do you think, that you have to reproduce?
ROBIN SODERLING: Well, I think you have to do everything well to beat him. He's such a great player and he moves so well and has a great offensive game and also a great defensive game.
Um, I have to play my own game and take initiative pretty early in the points and serve well.
Q. Are the courts to your liking? Or if it were a little bit colder the ball would bounce a little bit lower, would you prefer it?
ROBIN SODERLING: I'm not sure. I think I ‑‑ only looking at myself, you know, I think I play a little bit better when it's hotter and it's bouncing a little bit higher. But I think Rafa would probably say the same.
To me, doesn't really matter. I take whatever condition it is.
Q. Roger Federer made an interesting comment. He was talking about the England/Germany game, and said that the best players need to play the best players to bring the best out of themselves. Is that something you can relate to?
ROBIN SODERLING: No, not really. You know, I always try to do my best in any match. But maybe it's different for Roger because he won so many matches and he played so many Grand Slam finals.
Me, I think, you know, I'm trying my best all the time. Sometimes I play well; sometimes I'm not playing as well. That's tennis.
Q. What do you think about next round probably against Nadal? He's winning. Just one game.
ROBIN SODERLING: Yeah, if I play him, you know, as I said sure it's gonna be a really tough match. He's a great player, of course. He's the world No. 1. So I have to play well.
I think if I can do that I have an decent chance.
Q. Better than today?
ROBIN SODERLING: If I have to play better?
Q. Better than today.
ROBIN SODERLING: I'm not sure. It's gonna be a different match. He's a left‑hander, and he's not really playing the same style. So I have to think about that.