Sweden’s Söderling gears up for Aussie Open

Sweden's Söderling gears up for Aussie Open
Sweden's Robin Söderling is poised to make a major breakthrough at the upcoming Australian Open, which begins on Sunday local time, despite a woeful record at the season's first major.

The 1.93-metre with the fearsome forehand moved up to fourth in the world rankings on Monday after capturing his first title of the year at an Australian Open tune-up in Brisbane over the weekend.

He has only made it as far as the second round at Melbourne Park despite scrapping his way to two French Open title matches and three other Slam quarter-finals.

Söderling, 26, had a howler last year in Melbourne when he lost his opening match to Spain’s Marcel Granollers. In fact, he has only progressed beyond the first round twice in 2009 and 2004.

However, a native of Tibro in central Sweden, started 2011 with a bang at the Brisbane International, where he saw off Andy Roddick with powerful serving and crushing groundstrokes to take the title and rise to world number four.

“I am playing really well and what makes me really happy is that I’ve never really played well in Australia before. But now I’ve won a tournament here and I’m playing really good tennis, which makes me happy and gives me a lot of confidence for Melbourne,” said Söderling.

The imposing Swede famously shocked Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer en route to the 2009 and 2010 Roland Garros finals and said he has no fears about facing the top two.

“I never felt that the gap was very big [between Nadal, Federer and the rest]. There are a lot of very good players and I think there are 10 or even 15 guys who can win the big tournaments like the Grand Slams,” he said.

“Of course, Roger and Rafa will always be the favourites in every tournament they play in, but I think there are a lot of players who have a chance to beat them,” he added.

Söderling, who split with two-year coach Magnus Norman in December and is now with Italian coach Claudio Pistolesi, is targeting the Grand Slams and Masters 1000 tournaments this year and feels his game is still evolving.

“I still feel I can improve and become a better player. If I can do that, then I’m pretty sure I have a good chance to do well this year,” he said.

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