RG 1/4 Final: Soderling def Federer 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4, Snaps Federer’s Semi-Final Streak

Before I start my analysis, let me just congratulate Soderling(aka The Giant Killer) for this win. He really deserved to win this. Roger came out today looking mightily impressive as he dropped only two points on his serve in the first set. It also seemed like he had listened to my previous post as he was using the drop shot at the start of the match. Then in the second set he lost concentration in the second game as he dropped serve. Also, for some reason it didn’t look like he was experimenting with the drop shot or short slices much. In the third set it was a similar game plan from Federer. He did have his chances though. At 4-3 Soderling was 0-30 down on his serve, and at 15-30 a second serve from Soderling caught the line and caught Roger by surprise. So that was a bit unlucky. At 5-4 Soderling was 0-30 down on his serve again, and at 30-40 Federer had a set point.

He almost got it with a smash/lob from the back of the court, but Soderling managed to make the backhand smash for a winner. At 5-5 and 40-15 on Federer’s serve, rain brought a halt to play. I thought this was a good chance for Roger to talk to his coach and maybe change a few things when he came back, but instead he squandered his lead in that game and got broken. This is where the match started getting away from him. He wasn’t out of it at this point, but it was time to change his game plan if he was going to pull this one out of the fire. He then got a break in the fourth set and it looked like he was back in the match, but could not consolidate. He played a service game where he was just looking to slug it out with Soderling from the base line. But today Soderling was too accurate and powerful from the base line, so I thought that was the wrong tactic.

I don’t want to over analyze this match and criticize Roger too much, because I know how well Soderling was playing. Yet I can’t help wondering what would have happened if Roger mixed things up more. Sure it was hard with the way Soderling was playing, but if you are losing anyway you may as well try something different. It was just as if he was losing and wans’t bothered to do much about it. It reminded me of when he played Nadal at Roland Garros before where he was just stubbornly slugging it out with Nadal from the base line. There is nothing wrong with being overpowered by a big hitter. The same thing happened to Roger last year when he played against Del Potro, but he found a way to win. He kept chipping away until Del Potro started making unforced errors. I just feel like he had no game plan. He was just content to slug it out from the base line with someone who was more powerful than him.

In the final last year he beat Soderling in straight sets. He used short slices and mixed up the play then. Why not do it this time? Sure Soderling was not as nervous as he was back then, but to go from a straight set win to a four set loss? Seems odd to me. Moving on, Soderling played aggressively all the way through and kept Roger under pressure, so he deserves the win. The outcome of this match means that possibly the most amazing record in tennis history, 23 consecutive grand slam semi-finals, comes to an end. It doesn’t matter all that much, because I can’t see it ever being broken. Still, it’s always sad when something like that comes to an end. The bigger problems I have with this loss is the fact that Roger can now lose his number one ranking if Nadal wins the title. Also, his chances to win the calender slam is gone.

At least it is for this year, although you would think this was probably his last chance for that. In a way this win from Soderling is almost appropriate. Last year he did Roger a big favor by eliminating Nadal and paving the way for him to complete the calender slam. I think of it this way: If I was given the promise last year that Roger would win the French Open at the condition that he had to lose to the guy who took out Nadal the next year, I would most certainly have taken it. Lets just hope that Soderling does the GOAT another favor now by beating Berdych and then Nadal. I must say a Soderling/Nadal final is not a bad consolation prize for Roger losing either. I really hope that match happens. Given the way Soderling played today, he must have his chances to beat Nadal again.

So what does this loss mean for the Roger’s future? I have said before that once Roger start losing before the semi’s of slam that we may start talking about serious decline. The first thing I have to say is that this loss to Soderling shows just how amazing Roger’s record of 23 consecutive grand slam semi’s really is. He has run into players like Soderling on many occasions throughout this run. Also, clay is Roger’s worst surface. If this happened at Wimbledon I would have been a bit more worried. But I think we should give it time until the end of the year. Roger’s best grand slams is still coming up and he already has one in the bag this year. So no, I don’t think there is any real cause for concern. The semi-final streak had to come to and end at some point, and that is all it is to me; the end of the semi-final streak.

Presser: Suffice to say Roger didn’t like the conditions…http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/news/interviews/2010-06-01/201006011275423725470.html

May the Fedforce be with you.

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  1. WOW, I wanted to quote the parts I agreed with, but I ended up wanting to quote the whole thing actually, LOL! I agree on what you said about the game plan (or the lack of it), about the fact I would totally be okay last year if one had told me how the last 2 RG would unfold, and about the implications for the future. I don’t like to flatter people too much, but great job! ;-)

    I just wonder how much Roger was really able to add more variety given the conditions and the way Robin played. Because he was varying a lot in the 1st, and unless he’s dumb (which I don’t think he is LOL) I don’t see why he would change. So the 2 things that changed between the 2 1st sets what that Robin started firing like hell, and the rain got heavier. So I wonder if it’s not just that he was plainly outpowered and that he couldn’t even handle it by varying. Don’t know if I’m clear actually :-P


    Ru-an Reply:

    Thanks :-) I understand what you mean. And you could be right. I guess i was venting as well.


  2. It’s always sad when Roger loses. I know that he wanted to defend his title. It’s all up in the air as to how the rest of the Grand Slams and tournaments end up. I don’t know what I’m going to do once Roger retires?


  3. I am feeling extremely sad to see this end but I guess Roger has to return this favour somehow. Not taking anything from Le Sod, but the match was in Roger’s racquet. He did not play with variation against Nadal on the first set in Madrid and came too late during the 2nd set. Against Soderling, he was playing with variation during 1st set but somehow change tactic during 2nd set. He got to understand he cannot out hit flat hitters. What happen to slice backhand, it worked well throughout 12-0 matches. This year’s FO is one of the most boring GS, with Roger’s loss makes it totally sux. I am moving on to cow grass now.


  4. I´m very sad, but this put into context how icredible all Roger had done over the last 6 years,and that´s a
    good feeling.
    Great post Ruan as always.


  5. This is a troubling trend to see, actually. In his dominant years, usually Roger had the big hitters for breakfast. He practically dismantled all of them: Roddick, Soderling, Berdych, Safin (w/ AO 2005 exception), etc.

    Recently we see him troubled by these big hitters. Remember Wimbledon 2009, he was troubled by Roddick until finally he prevailed. Same again w/ USO 2009. And there are other losses to big hitters. This is either they are catching up to him or he is slowly declining.

    Do you have some notice of this as well, Ru-an?


    Ru-an Reply:

    Yeah i do. It could be that this type of tall, powerful ballbasher is the player of the future, and that Roger and Nadals dominance is coming to and end now. But i am planning a follow-up post. I still think Roger played the wrong match tactically. There is ways to beat this kind of player, because they dont have any variation to their game., and they dont move well.


    jason Reply:

    Ru-an, as you said these types of players (tall, bigserver & ballbasher) have weaknesses in their movement. Del Potro while he is fast, I always feel that he lacks that flexibility & agility a very top player (no. 1 or 2) usually has. That is their weakness… and Roger knows this. That’s why he could exploit their weaknesses in his prime.

    In his prime, he’s quicker and has better defensive skills than now. True, he has added more variety to his game since the 2008 miserable year. We can mention the volleys, dropshots, deadlier serves, etc. But I think we must admit that as a whole, he’s already declining as a player.

    Think about what his dominance do to other players. Almost nobody is born w/ his kind of talents. So, what do they do? They try to get more athletic or physical w/ the game: hit harder, move faster. It is one step of progress, but not enough to catch Roger in his prime. What we see now is the closing of gap between Roger and those players. Roger is in decline and those young players are getting more athletic. I think in the recent past you have been too afraid to admit that Roger is in decline. But w/ the mounting evidences, we just have to admit that. He’s a human and it’s impossible for a human to be at his physical prime all the time, no matter the conditioning.

    We’ll see what Wimbledon brings. I begin to suspect the next few years the tennis field will be very open. Of course, Roger still has great chances to add more slams to his illustrious career. But the competition may become quite open. Perhaps just like in Sampras/Andre days. I hope he can still dominate Wimbledon… it’s the one GS that means the most to him.


    Ru-an Reply:

    Of course he isnt as dominant as he was. But its not just decline. Players also catch up with you and figure you out. Like i said in my post, im not willing to admit any serious decline yet. Ill wait until the end of the USO to make another assessment. I thim you are too quick to want to write off Roger. Losing in the quarter final of his least favorite slam is hardly that big a deal. Also see my latest post.


  6. Good post, Ru-an, as ususal. Reading all the many comments and reasons for Roger’s many losses recently, my thoughts are of different way. Being a senior citizen, Roger could be my grandson btw., my thoughts are that Roger is now a family man. More responsibility have moved into his life. I know he says he separates tennis from private life. He is not the care-free single tennis player that we have seen for so many years in Roger. A change in his personal life has taken place….knowing Roger, the wonderful human being he is, his family comes first now. Will appreciate your thoughts on this, Ru-an.
    Personally, am very sad he lost the match, however, am hoping for better days ahead, would so much like to see him win another Wimbledon title. Also, Halle is coming up.


  7. He was too stubborn, and tried to outhit Soderling just as he did in losing to Del Potro at USO.

    We’ve seen him take apart big hitters with ease even recently. He did this to Del Potro at last year’s AO. It wasn’t so much that Del Potro fell apart mentally; Federer gave him no pace and nothing to hit throughout the match.

    But I have to give credit to Soderling, his footwork has improved considerably and he served brilliantly. He really did deserve to win.

    The end of the streak shows what an incredible effort of will was required for Federer to reach all those semifinals and finals. How hard it was to push through all those matches at Roland Garros, knowing Nadal was probably going to be there at the end.

    To bring his best stuff on all the big points and employ the right tactics at the right times requires superhuman focus and determination. As he gets older it will be harder to bring that kind of focus to the big matches. His motivation will sometimes dip just a little bit, and that will make the difference against top players.

    I didn’t feel that kind of relentlessness coming from him against Soderling. It was not like the Del Potro SF when he simply decided he was not going to leave Roland Garros without that trophy. He lost patience, made mistakes on important points, squandered leads.

    Oh well. He has the trophy from Roland Garros, even if he never wins another (but I think he will).


    Ru-an Reply:

    I like your optimism.


  8. Absolutely.

    Any counter pucher, except Nadal, has virtually no chance against Federer, who controls the baseline.

    Soderling showed what Del Potro showed, that in order to beat Roger, you have to overpower him.

    Should be a good FO final.


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