Tennis: Fed express derailed in Paris
For the second year in succession Robin Soderling triggered the tennis equivalent of an earthquake here last night when he knocked Roger Federer out of the French Open.
The greatest player in the history of the game had played in the semi-finals of 23 Grand Slam tournaments in succession, but had no answer to the power of the man he had beaten in last year's final. Soderling won 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4.
Twelve months ago Soderling had arrived here with a reputation as nothing more than a journeyman, but recorded one of the biggest shocks in the history of the sport when he beat Rafael Nadal, who had never lost in 31 previous appearances on these courts.
Since then the 25-year-old Swede has had a year of solid progress, though there was nothing in his head-to-head record with Federer to suggest he would have the beating of the world No 1 in yesterday's quarter-finals. Federer had won all 12 of their previous meetings.
Federer last failed to reach a Grand Slam semi-final here six years ago and this defeat could cost him his place at the top of the world rankings. Nadal will reclaim the top spot if he wins his fifth title here on Sunday, which would stop Federer from beating Pete Sampras' record of 286 weeks at the top of the list.
The Swiss had not dropped a set in his four previous matches here and looked to be in control when he took the first set in 32 minutes, having broken serve in the eighth game when Soderling missed a routine backhand volley.
Soderling, however, broke at the start of the second set and served out to level the contest. By now he was matching the world No 1 punch for punch. Just as he did in beating Nadal and going on to reach the final here last year, the Swede served consistently and hit his ground strokes with huge power.
Rain halted play with Federer serving at 5-5 and 30-15 in the third set, but when the players returned an hour and a quarter later Soderling immediately broke serve and went on to take the set with an ace.
In the fourth, it was Federer's turn to make an immediate break to lead 2-0, but Soderling responded in kind. At 3-3 there was another interruption for rain, but this time the players did not leave the court and within four minutes play resumed.
Federer, regularly hitting the ball long, had to save three break points at 4-3, but the Swede was on an unstoppable roll and Soderling broke to lead 5-4 when the Swiss missed a backhand. A service winner on his first match point completed the rout and sent Soderling into a semi-final against Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray's conqueror, who beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-3 6-1 6-2.
Meanwhile, Francesca Schiavone had played in 38 Grand Slam tournaments in succession before she arrived here a fortnight ago, but had looked as likely to engrave her name on a trophy as a baby with a plastic spoon. Tomorrow, however, the 29-year-old from Milan will become the first Italian woman in the Open era to play in a major semi-final when she takes on Elena Dementieva.
Schiavone earned her place in the last four when she beat last year's beaten US Open finalist, Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-3. Hurling herself around the court like a teenager, Schiavone took only 80 minutes to beat the world No 3. At the end of the match her smile lit up the stadium. She leapt into the air before lying on the ground and kissing the court surface.
Dementieva won a battle between two limping Russians when she beat Nadia Petrova 2-6 6-2 6-0. Dementieva left the court for treatment to a thigh injury after the fifth game of the first set and when she returned Petrova walked off for treatment on a hamstring strain.
Petrova, who knocked out Venus Williams in the previous round, needed more attention after the second set and was having trouble moving. The quality of the tennis was understandably mixed, with 102 out of 154 points decided by errors. (© Independent news Service)
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