Super Söderling digs deep to reach Paris final
AFP/The Local · 5 Jun 2009, 16:39
Published: 05 Jun 2009 16:39 GMT+02:00
The Swedish 23rd seed, who knocked out four-time champion Rafael Nadal in the last 16, will now face sentimental favourite Roger Federer, bidding to win a record-setting 14th Grand Slam title, or improving Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro on Sunday for the trophy.
With compatriot and six-time winner Björn Borg in support, the 24-year-old clinched a famous victory, coming back from 1-4 down in the final set, to reach his first Grand Slam final.
Söderling, who had never got beyond the third round in any of his 21 previous majors, is the first Swede to reach the final since coach Magnus Norman in 2000 while Mats Wilander was the country's last champion in 1988.
"It's unbelievable. I played well in the first two sets. Then he started to play incredibly well," said the Swede.
"I was down a break in the final set but I said to myself that I have nothing to lose. I started to return great and everything changed.
"I still have far to go with the most difficult match, maybe against Federer, to come on Sunday."
Söderling stormed to a 5-2 lead before a confident service hold allowed him to claim the opening set, comfortably winning the early battle of the big forehands, firing 10 winners to the Chilean's two.
Gonazalez had to save three break points in the ninth game of the second set before Söderling saved a set point in the 10th with his eighth ace of the contest.
The 28-year-old Chilean was under siege. He saved another three break points in the 11th game, before a wild forehand allowed his opponent to grab the initiative for a 6-5 lead.
That became a two-sets advantage when Gonzalez, having slumped to the red dirt fruitlessly chasing a Söderling drive, could only push a forehand wide.
But the big-hearted Gonzalez refused to surrender.
With French basketball hero Tony Parker and his Hollywood actress wife Eva Longoria slipping into the VIP box, Gonzalez slashed the deficit, taking the third set when a Söderling forehand lost its sense of direction.
The 24-year-old Swede's big game suffered a sudden, dramatic power cut as the full-blooded forehand, which had destroyed Nadal, deserted him.
Gonzalez overcame a lengthy and comical dispute with chair umpire Emmanual Joseph to level the semi-final, taking the fourth set when Söderling, who had needed treatment to a right foot injury, pushed a weak forehand wide.
The Chilean was quickly 2-0 ahead in the decider, but Söderling retrieved the break to trail 3-4 and then incredibly broke again to lead 5-4.
He claimed victory with one final, power-packed deep forehand which left Gonzalez floundering and the Swede on his knees in disbelief at his achievement.