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Federer praises champion-slayer Soderling

Last updated on: June 2, 2010 12:53 IST

Soderling is champion-slayer of Roland Garros



Rafael Nadal's world laid to waste last year and now Roger Federer ruthlessly put to the sword, Sweden's Robin Soderling is clearly the undisputed champion-slayer of Roland Garros.

As rain fell from a dark Parisian sky on Tuesday, Soderling towered through the murk, unleashing thunderbolt serves and ferocious forehands to leave the Swiss defending champion reeling and silence a pro-Federer crowd on Court Chatrier.

His 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 victory was the biggest upset at the claycourt Grand Slam since... well 12 months ago when he ended Nadal's four-year stranglehold on the French Open with an equally destructive show of force.

Soderling had lost all 12 of his matches against Federer, including last year's final when the World No 1 completed a career Grand Slam.

Tuesday's rain-interrupted contest seemed to be heading the same way until the Swede turned the tide and then seized the initiative near the end of a pivotal third set.

Image: Robin Soderling
Photographs: Reuters

'He came up with some great tennis'

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Federer's loss was even more of a bombshell as he had reached the semi-final of each of the last 23 Grand Slams, an incredible sequence dating back to 2004 when he lost in the third round at Roland Garros to Gustavo Kuerten.

Come Sunday, if Nadal goes on to reclaim his title, Federer could even lose his World No 1 ranking but he still managed to find some humour to lighten the mood.

"They all come to an end at some stage," their Swiss said after a lengthy wait at doping control. "You hope it doesn't happen, but they do. I mean, it was a great run. Now I've got the quarter-final streak going, I guess.

"Conditions were on the rough (side) but he came up with some great tennis," added Federer.

Fifth seed Soderling thoroughly deserved his victory, a reward for persistence if ever there was one.

He has clearly acquired a taste for battering egos.

Soderling will start as favourite in his semi-final against Czech Tomas Berdych who will make a long overdue appearance in the last four of a grand slam tournament after a straight sets thrashing of Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.

Image: Roger Federer

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Dementieva to contest her ninth Grand Slam semis

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Elena Dementieva will not be treading new ground though.

The Russian fifth seed, playing in her 46th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, surged past a limping Nadia Petrova 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 in a match played out in light rain.

Dementieva, 28, runner-up at Roland Garros in 2004, will contest her ninth Grand Slam singles semi-final on Thursday when she takes on another of the 'late 20s' brigade Francesca Schiavone.

Schiavone, at 29 the oldest player to play in this year's women's quarter-finals, had too much claycourt nous for Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki, winning 6-2, 6-3 to become the first Italian woman in the Open era to reach the last four of a Grand Slam.

"Heart attack," was her succinct response when asked to describe her feelings. "I think in that moment you remember many things from when you were young. It is special because it is your space, your time, your opportunity."

Image: Elena Dementieva

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Soderling took charge after lengthy rain break

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Federer had not lost a set on his serene progress into the quarter-finals and yet another Sunday showdown with Nadal was rearing headlong into view when he won the first set against Soderling with just two points dropped on his serve.

His opponent had other ideas, though. He sped into a 3-0 lead in the second set and when he served at 5-3 to level the match he bombarded Federer's defences with three first serves registering 220kph plus on the speed gun.

The match hinged on the end of the third set. Federer engineered a set point at 5-4 on the Soderling serve and almost converted it with an audacious backcourt smash straight out of his box of tricks but the Swede was equal to it.

Then, after a lengthy rain break at 5-5, Soderling returned to take charge, first breaking his opponent's serve and then sealing the third set with a fizzing ace, one of 14 he fired down, that had Federer throwing his hands to the sky.

Soderling ran riot in the fourth set with a baseline blitz that had his Swiss opponent clinging on desperately but the determined Swede would not relent and raised his fist in celebration when Federer wafted a backhand over the baseline.

Image: Roger Federer

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