Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mon Dieu! He did it again

Swede bounces Federer, just like he ran Nadal out last year

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PARIS -- His French Open reign suddenly over, his record streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals done, too, Roger Federer paused briefly as he trudged off court at dusk, acknowledging the fans' applause with a polite smile and a quick wave.

He's certainly not used to bidding adieu so soon.

Bothered by the pouring rain and his big-hitting foe, the top-seeded Federer wasted a lead and plenty of openings Tuesday, succumbing to No. 5 Robin Soderling of Sweden 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the quarter-finals at Roland Garros. If Soderling's name sounds familiar, it's because he stunned four-time champion Rafael Nadal in the French Open's fourth round last year, before losing to Federer in the final.

For the first time in six years, the men's semifinals at a major tennis tournament will not involve 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer.

"They all come to an end at some stage. You hope they don't happen, but they do. It was a great run," Federer said, before injecting a little humour: "Now I've got the quarter-final streak going, I guess."

Canadian Daniel Nestor kept a semifinal streak of his own in tact. The Toronto left-hander reached the final four at Roland Garros for the fourth straight year. He and partner Nenad Zimonjic, the No. 2 seeds, beat sixth-seeded Lukasz Kubot and Oliver Marach 7-5, 6-3 in the quarter-finals.

Nestor and Zimonjic will take on the fourth-seeded pair of Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman in the semis.

Federer had won 117 matches in a row -- 117! -- in the first five rounds at majors, dating to a loss to Gustavo Kuerten in the third round at the French Open on May 29, 2004 (Federer advanced twice when opponents withdrew).

"I mean, I respect everyone, but I'm always -- how do you say? -- I'm honest enough to myself that I know I can't win them all."

Among the many reasons why Tuesday's result was so unexpected is that Federer was 12-0 against Soderling, having won 28 of the 30 sets they'd played.

So who, exactly, would have thought Soderling could win three sets in a single day?

Well, Soderling, for one.

"Even though I lost so many times, I always have a chance to win," said the 25-year-old Soderling, who'd never been past the third round at a Grand Slam tournament until last year's French Open.

That next match will be in Friday's semifinals against No. 15 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. Still, Soderling has every right to relish what he's already accomplished: He is the first man to beat the French Open defending champion in consecutive years since another Swede, Mats Wilander, did it in 1984-85.

Soderling put every last bit of his 6-foot-4, 192-pound frame into powerful forehands that were like thunderclaps, loud and frightening. Soderling rarely allowed Federer to step into the court, either to cut off angles or to rush forward for volleys. Federer made only 17 trips to the net, 13 fewer than Soderling.

And then there were those Soderling serves, cutting through the air at 130 m.p.h. or more, contributing 14 aces and some key service winners, while setting up countless other successful points.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 2, 2010 C6

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