Robin Soderling added his name to the list of distinguished Swedes to succeed at the BNP Paribas Masters. Soderling sailed past denizen Gael Monfils 6-1, 7-6 to earn his first Masters 1000 shield and the biggest title of his career.
A packed house was buzzing as the players took the court with the fans overwhelming in Monfils’ corner. After his spectacular win over Roger Federer in the semifinals, whereby Monfils salvaged five match points, his derailing of Andy Murray in the quarterfinals and also erasing two match points in the third round against Fernando Verdasco, the crowd was hoping Monfils could dazzle it one last time and hoist the trophy. However, Soderling proved uncooperative. Following easy holds by both players the initial three games, Monfils made a spate of errors to gift Soderling triple break point. Then, Monfils misfired on a volley after Soderling reached his ill advised dropshot giving the Swede a 3-1 lead. With Monfils sending an overhead wide, Soderling consolidated for 4-1. Ahead 40-15, Monfils was at deuce subsequent to a backhand mistake and a forehand crosscourt winner by Soderling. When the Frenchman netted a forehand, Soderling arrived at break point. By striking a backhand crosscourt pass for a winner, Soderling had a double break edge and promptly wrapped up the first set in 26 minutes.
After a comfortable service game, Monfils looked ready to turn the tide. Yet, Soderling refused to let the public nor his opponent into the match. Despite a dismal first serve percentage in the second set, with Monfils’ returns landing short, Soderling continued to attack and cruised on serve. As neither player could fabricate a break point, the second set went to a tiebreaker. Troubled by the backhand all day, Monfils flubbed another one long to hand Soderling the first point. With a couple more strokes traveling long, Soderling built up a 3-1 advantage. Then, as a result of a return winner, a call overturned by a challenge, Soderling had a 5-1 cushion. Consequently, with another return muffed by Monfils, Soderling accumulated multiple champion points. The Swede only required one, converting with a forehand volley winner.
For the second consecutive year, Monfils advanced to the final at Bercy and came up short. Still, Monfils along with compatriot Michael Llodra made history at the event. Llodra ousted defending champion Novak Djokovic in the third round then upended Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals. In so doing, two Frenchmen were in the semifinals for the maiden time in the tournament’s history. Moreover, Llodra was one forehand winner away from upsetting Soderling and making it an all French final.
For Soderling this is his sixth career title and the fifth indoors. In claiming his first masters shield, Soderling leaps over Murray and takes the number four spot, the Swede’s highest career ranking. Last year, in his debut at the ATP World Tour Finals, Soderling fell in the semifinals. Undoubtedly, this victory magnifies the Swede’s confidence which means he will once again be a great peril to his rivals in London.