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Jeff Cooper

Soderling Overpowers Federer

By June 1, 2010

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In his previous 12 meetings with Robin Soderling, Roger Federer had come away the victor. In 23 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals prior to this one, Roger had advanced, giving him a record that may never be equaled; the next best are Rod Laver and Ivan Lendl at 10 each. But, when Robin Soderling is at his best, he may be unstoppable, hitting forehands with an unprecedented combination of power, depth, angle, and consistency, delivering first serves between 130 and 140 mph and second serves between 110 and 120 mph, and hitting backhands with excellent depth and power as well. Playing this kind of tennis in last year's fourth round, Soderling pulled off a stunning upset of Rafael Nadal, the four-time defending champion, and he looked even better against defending champion Federer in Tuesday's quarterfinal this year. Roger played well, but Soderling was just amazing, earning every bit of his 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 win.

At the start of this Roland Garros, you would have been hard-pressed to find anyone picking someone other than Nadal to win the tournament, but if Soderling keeps playing at this level, he should claim his first Grand Slam singles title. Soderling will be hoping for continuing weather just like Tuesday's: calm, cool, and wet. Most tennis players prefer calm conditions, but with Soderling's huge forehand swing they're even more advantageous, because a wind that blows the ball slightly off his intended point of contact or complicates his timing would likely introduce slight changes in his racquet angle that would be magnified by his power into large errors in depth and placement. Cool and wet conditions help Soderling by letting him hit without any restraint; the balls aren't so lively that they'll fly out of control. Slower conditions also help Soderling on defense, his weak spot, because he has more time to run down shots from his opponents, who might put balls past him on a hotter, drier day. Soderling produces more power on a cool, damp day on clay than most players can produce under the liveliest of conditions.

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