TENNIS : Group B outsider Robin Soderling is within sight of a place in the Barclays ATP World Tour semi-finals after following up his victory over Rafael Nadal with a 7-6 (7/5) 6-1 defeat of defending champion Novak Djokovic at London’s O2 Arena on Wednesday afternoon.
Group B outsider Robin Soderling is within sight of a place in the Barclays ATP World Tour semi-finals after following up his victory over Rafael Nadal with a 7-6 (7/5) 6-1 defeat of defending champion Novak Djokovic at London’s O2 Arena on Wednesday afternoon.
The Swede only qualified for the tournament as a reserve after Andy Roddick pulled out injured but his progression will be confirmed if Nadal beats Nikolay Davydenko in Wednesday’s evening match up..
Ahead of the match, Roger Federer was presented with a trophy by ATP chairman Adam Helfant after he clinched the year-end number one ranking with his victory over Andy Murray on Tuesday night.
Soderling needed four huge serves to avoid being broken in the third game but he was then presented with a golden opportunity to clinch the first set in game 10.
Twice Nadal had faltered at 4-5 against Soderling and it looked like history would repeat itself only for Djokovic to recover from 0-40 – a mammoth rally at deuce finding the world number nine unable to break his opponent’s resistance – to hold.
Into the tie-break they went and there were mini-breaks aplenty before Djokovic finally succumbed to his opponent’s power to go down 7-5.
Djokovic came into the event as arguably the man to beat after back-to-back titles in Basle and Paris but he has also had the heaviest schedule of the top contenders this year and a three-set epic against Nikolay Davydenko on Monday night did not help.
The 22-year-old admitted afterwards he was running on empty and his task became even harder when he was broken in the third game of the second set, Djokovic failing with an attempted drop shot at the end of a titanic rally.
The Serbian looked resigned to his fate and he tamely surrendered his serve for a second successive game as Soderling, who by now was playing very well, surged into a 4-1 lead.
Djokovic battled hard in an attempt to least force his opponent to serve out for victory, saving one match point with a backhand winner, but a netted volley sealed his fate.