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TENNIS

Söderling defeated in Barcelona final

Swedish second seed Robin Söderling was defeated by Spain's fifth seed Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 on Sunday to keep the Barcelona claycourt title at home for the eighth straight year.

Verdasco upset the better fancied Swede who held a 4-1 margin in their series going into the final, treating the crowds at the Real Club de Tenis to yet another local victory.

Defeat in two hours, three minutes denied Roland Garros finalist Söderling the honour of lifting his country’s first title in Barcelona since Ken Carlsson 22 years ago.

“Winning here is just unbelievable,” said Verdasco, whose late entry was only assured after his Monte Carlo performance a week ago, where he lost the final as Rafael Nadal claimed a record sixth consecutive title at the event.

“I’m very excited and happy to win this tournament. I wasn’t originally going to play this week, but I got a wild card and here I am.”

“I’ve been training here since the age of 15. Watching the Barcelona Open for me has always been a very special tournament.”

Verdasco followed on from compatriots Carlos Moya (2003), Tommy Robredo (2004) and Rafael Nadal in the five years following as he kept the cup firmly in Iberian hands.

The last non-Spaniard to win the title was Argentine Gaston Gaudio in 2002.

Spain has put a player into 14 straight finals at the club since 1997.

Victory marked the second trophy this season for the ninth-ranked Verdasco, who was beaten a week ago for the Monte Carlo title by Nadal but won indoors in San Jose.

Söderling was playing his first clay week of the season as he builds up for Roland Garros starting on May 23rd.

Söderling came in the favourite after having beaten Verdasco in both of their previous clay encounters.

But the inspired Spaniard took the early initiative away with breaks of the Swede’s last two service game in the opening set to win it after 38 minutes.

Söderling returned fire by taking the second after losing an early break but Verdasco dominated in the third to claim the heartfelt win.

Verdasco improved to 23-6 on the season and 11-2 on clay as he moves onto the Rome Masters.

The winner Verdasco took seven appearances to reach his first Barcelona final after stalling before the quarter-final stage five times.

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SPORT

Björn Borg’s son Leo set to make his Wimbledon debut

Four decades after Swedish tennis legend Björn Borg won a fifth consecutive Wimbledon title, his 16-year-old son Leo Borg is reportedly set to make his debut at the tournament.

Björn Borg's son Leo set to make his Wimbledon debut
Leo Borg's Wimbledon debut is yet to be officially confirmed. Photo: Hanna Franzén/TT

According to reports in British tabloid The Sun and Swedish tabloid Expressen, Borg will be awarded a wildcard to play in the Wimbledon junior event.

“Leo is very grateful about getting a wildcard for the qualifiers to junior Wimbledon,” Björn Borg told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.

“It will be an incredible experience and useful practice for the future,” he added.

A spokeswoman for the Wimbledon tournament did not want to confirm the decision, only saying that wildcard announcements and the main draw for the Juniors tournament would be made next week.

If confirmed, Leo Borg’s Wimbledon debut comes 39 years after Björn Borg defeated American rival John McEnroe, winning him his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title.

The iconic match has been called one of the greatest matches of all time and the story was adapted for the screen in the 2017 feature film Borg vs McEnroe, where Leo, bearing a striking resemblance to his fatther, played a younger version of Björn Borg.

During the 1970s and early 1980s Björn Borg won a total of 11 Grand Slam titles, five Wimbledons and six French Opens.


Björn Borg after winning his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title in 1980. Photo: Scanpix/TT

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