Söderling hoping to lead Swedish revival

Borg, Wilander and Edberg are long gone and it's dark days for Swedish tennis, but in Robin Söderling there are at least some rays of hope.

A former top junior who has struggled to make his mark in the top flight, Sderling has finally started to fulfill some of his potential this year.

He pulled off the upset of the year in the French Open by ending the long unbeaten run of Rafael Nadal before going on to reach his first Grand Slam final losing to Roger Federer.

He is at it again in New York, where he reached the quarter-finals on Monday when fourth-round opponent Nikolay Davydenko abandoned when down two sets to one.

Asked if he felt the pressure of being the sole flag-bearer of Swedish tennis – he is the only Swede in the world top 100 – Söderling replied: “Well, I try not to think about it too much.

“You know, for a country like Sweden, such a small country, we had so much success in the past. We had so many good players, so it’s tough to compare yourself to them.

“I try to play my own game. I try to win every match and see how far I can go.

“I think it really helped me that we had so many good players when I was young.

“I had a lot of players to watch. We were 10, even more, 15 to 20 guys in the Grand Slams every year. It was good for me.”

Beneficial for him too he says has been the influence of one of those players – Magnus Norman – who was good enough to get to No.2 in the world before a back injury brought a premature end to his career.

It was to Norman, after another year of under-achievement last year, that Söderling turned and the results so far have been spectacular.

“Magnus, he’s a great coach. He means a lot to me,” he said.

“He says the same things that all my other coaches have done in the past. But I tend to listen to him a bit more than the other coaches I had.

“I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because he has been such a good player and he played at this level not too long ago. I believe he really knows what he’s talking about.”

Next up for Söderling is old nemesis Federer, to whom he has lost 11 times since they first played in Canada five years ago, the most recent of which was a straight-sets defeat in the French Open finals.

Still Sderling says it will not be a foregone conclusion.

“Of course, he beat me a lot of times,” he said.

“But we had a few very good matches and I had some good chances to actually win in a couple of them.

“Of course, to me, he’s the best player of all time, but if I can play well, hopefully I have a small chance.”

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