For three years, Roger Federer has been a bridesmaid at the French Open. Today, at last, Federer vanquished Swede Robin Soderling 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 to seize his first ‘Coupe Des Mousquetaires’ and complete the career grand slam. Federer becomes just the sixth male player to possess all four majors.
Federer got off to an idyllic start by pressuring Soderling’s serve. With a forehand up the line error by Soderling, Federer had break point and cashed in courtesy of a double fault. After consolidating with a love game, Federer extended his lead by connecting on a forehand return winner for 3-0. After Soderling held serve in a tight game, he was unable to get a point in Federer’s game. Then, Soderling watched the first set end when Federer cranked a backhand crosscourt pass to break again.
In the second set, the caliber of Soderling’s play improved with a higher percentage of first serves and more forehand winners. With Soderling serving at 15-0, a deranged spectator leapt on court and accosted Federer, waving a Barcelona flag in his face. This frightening incident was terminated when security personnel tackled the intruder. Fortunately, after Robin won his game, Federer refocused and comfortably held for 3-2. With neither man able to dent the other’s serve, the set went to a tiebreaker. With an ace and by forcing Soderling into a forehand error, Federer went ahead 2-1. Soderling never touched Federer’s serve. With three additional aces, a backhand down the line error by Soderling and a forehand drop shot winner, Federer carried the set.
A double fault offered Federer his first opportunity to take charge in the third. Roger capitalized when Robin missed a forehand up the line. With his serve on autopilot, Federer went up 2-0. A hiccup came when serving at 2-1, Federer miscalculated a forehand up the line handing Soderling his first break chance. However, with a forehand down the line winner, Roger wiped out his previous error and held for 3-1. Once Federer extended his advantage to 5-3, tears began to creep into his eyes. Federer realized that he was four points from securing the only major trophy that had escaped him. After Soderling guarded serve, Federer misfired on a forehand mid-court to donate a break point. However, with a good serve and a forehand error from Robin, Roger was back on track. Subsequently, with a forehand volley winner, Federer finally arrived at match point and sealed the championship when Soderling’s return found the net.
This was an unpredictable French Open. Soderling’s run to his maiden major final was surreal. In the round of 16, Soderling beat Rafael Nadal, Federer’s hindrance at the French the ultimate four years. In so doing, the Swede prohibited Nadal from surpassing countryman Bjorn Borg’s record of four successive French Open titles. Strangely, Bjorn had Nadal to thank last year for preventing Federer from overtaking his record of five consecutive trophies at Wimbledon. Moreover, Soderling’s road kill list included David Ferrer in the third round, Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters and Fernando Gonzalez in the semis, all formidable clay court players. Also, unlike prior years, Federer’s path was fraught with peril. Roger needed four sets in both second and third round against Jose Acasuso and Paul-Henri Mathieu, respectively. Further, Federer was possibly one forehand miscue from losing to Tommy Haas in the round of 16. Then, world number five Juan Martin Del Potro pushed Federer to five sets in the semifinals.
Post match, Soderling acknowledged he had a tough time since Federer did not permit him to be ‘aggressive’. Soderling felt his task was impossible because ‘Roger makes [one] play bad’. Federer confessed that ‘it was an emotional roller coaster’, citing he was nervous and his mind kept wandering. The question ‘what if I win this tournament’ continuously popped in his head, adding to his anxiety particularly when serving out the match. Federer claimed that along with his first Wimbledon, undoubtedly, this was his most satisfying win. Now, Federer has equaled Pete Sampras’ record of 14 majors. More importantly, unlike Pete, Federer has a French Open title on his resume.