Federer extends dominance of Soderling
For the 15th time in 16 meetings, Roger Federer beat Robin Soderling.
And that victory, earned here Thursday with the graceful, clinical efficiency that has become his hallmark, has put Federer into the semifinals of the ATP World Tour Finals for the eighth time in nine appearances.
The score was 7-6, 6-3 and even though Soderling broke back midway through the first set and actually got himself as close as set point at 5-6, the outcome always seemed like a foregone conclusion. In fact, Federer assured himself of the place in the last four when he won the first set, due to the mathematical formula attached to the round-robin system.
Apparently, there was a huge fluctuation amongst the world betting agencies as soon as that happened as punters bet on the Swiss losing his focus and allowing Soderling back into the match. They obviously don’t know their man.
“Losing is never a solution to trying to win a tournament,” said Federer when asked about his mindset after winning that first set. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure that the first set already made me qualified. Honestly, I didn’t feel that way when I sat on the bench. I didn’t want to know too much about it. Last year it played on my mind a little bit. So my mind wasn’t wandering much in the second set. I was just really focused. I really tried to close him out because losing in three sets all of a sudden is not going to do me any good whatsoever.”
Obviously the Swede has always had trouble with Federer, despite his shocking win in the quarterfinals of the French Open last June, and his problems all seemed to be encapsulated in the eighth game of the second set. A long, raking rally developed but no matter how well Soderling hit his forehand, Federer was always on the end of it and, when he got the angle he wanted, a wonderful cross-court forehand winner left his opponent standing.
That gave the Swiss break point. Soderling was into the net, trying to reverse the pressure, but Federer came up with such a fast, low return that Robin could only put the volley into the net. Match over.
Andy Murray knew he needed just one set against David Ferrer to qualify for the last four which might have acounted for a nervous start. But, having dropped his opening service game, Murray fed off the support of the 17,500 crowd to break back immediately and sweep on to an impressive 6-2, 6-2 victory.
"It was a good match," he said. "I played well and returned well. It is a bit of a different mindset, knowing what's at stake. It's different to anything we're used to. But I think it's great (to qualify). It's not an easy thing to do. You've got all the best players in the world here."
If, as expected, Murray ends up playing Rafael Nadal in one semi with Federer meeting Novak Djokovic in the other, the world's top four will have made it to their appointed places now that Murray has moved back to the fourth position after losing it, momentarily, to Soderling. But that is jumping the gun because nothing in the other round robin group is yet set in stone. Friday's matches will see Nadal play Tomas Berdych while Djokovic meets Andy Roddick. Despite the arithmatic heavily favoring Nadal and Djokovic, all four players still have a chance of going through depending on the results. They will have to be pretty quirky to let Roddick through, but all the American can do is win and see what happens.
Each session here starts with doubles and if the 02 Arena is not quite full at the beginning of the matches, it always is by the end. The doubles specialists revel in playing in front of the biggest crowds they see all year. Today the Bryan twins took a positive step towards semifinal qualification by winning their second match with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes and then, in another jazzy on-court ceremony, Mike and Bob were handed the trophy for finishing the top points earners for the year.
“To finish No. 1 for the sixth time is what we play for,” said Mike afterward.
Bob then talked us through what kind of a year it had been for these 32-year-old twins: “Started great, winning in Australia. Winning 600 career matches was a big milestone at Delray Beach and breaking the Woodies record (Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge's career titles record) in L.A., our home town, was the highlight of the year. Incredible summer for us. And then to clinch No. 1 in Basel. Dream year. Can’t ask for anything more.”
Except, perhaps, to win here. And they will be going for it big time in an atmosphere they love.
“This is pretty special,” said Mike. “There’s nothing like it. Indoors, when you have intros, you’re walking in with smoke, lights, music, you have goose bumps. So, yeah, I think this is our favorite tournament of the year. We feel like rock stars. It’s the best showcase for doubles of all time. We’re trying to make the most of it.”