Soderling edges semi thriller
Robin Soderling outlasted Fernando Gonazlez in a five-set thriller to book his place in the final of the French Open.
Last Updated: 05/06/09 4:40pm
Robin Soderling's dream run at Roland Garros continued as he outlasted Fernando Gonazlez in a five-set thriller to book his place in the final of the French Open.
The Swede, who put out defending champion Rafael Nadal, had looked on course for a comfortable passage as he bludgeoned his way through the opening two sets with a series of thumping groundstrokes that have become his trademark at this year's tournament.
But Gonzalez bravely stayed with his opponent and, having pinched a tight third set, grew in confidence as errors began to creep into Soderling's game.
Indeed, having levelled the match at two sets all, the Chilean looked poised for his second Grand Slam final appearance as he pulled out to a 4-1 lead in the decider.
But Soderling showed remarkable composure and belief to secure consecutive breaks, reeling off five straight games to complete a memorable 6-3 7-5 5-7 4-6 6-4 triumph that sees him take his place in Sunday's final.
The number 23 seed endured a sticky start as Gonzalez claimed an early break in the first set to lead 2-1, but having settled into the match he soon hit his stride and took five of the next six games, securing the first set when the South American sent a forehand long.
Gonzalez was then forced to fend off a break point in the first game of the second set as Soderling's punishing forehand continued to wreak havoc.
Indeed, the 12th seed was clinging on for long spells, but fought bravely to hold on to his serve and, having done so, forced a set point at 5-4 only to see Soderling save it with a service winner.
The Swede then forced three break points of his own in the next game as Gonzalez fell 0-40 down, and although he rallied to deuce two forehand errors handed his rival the game.
Soderling took full advantage and served out to move two sets clear as Gonzalez dumped a forehand into the net.
At that stage the Chilean cut a dispirited figure, but he roused himself and crucially managed to stave off a break point in the fifth game of the third set.
The set then stayed on serve until Gonzalez led 6-5 when Soderling's ultra-reliable forehand coughed up two errors to gift his opponent a break, the set and a passage back into the match.
Gonzalez was made to work hard to hold serve in his opening service game of the fourth with Soderling unable to convert any of his three break point opportunities.
A disputed line-call at 15-0, 4-4 then served to further fire up the South American who produced a bizarre protest at the line-call as he sat down and on top of the supposed mark and spun himself around.
However, it seemed to affect Soderling more than Gonzalez who held on to serve and took full advantage in the next game, closing out the set as the Swede first netted a backhand and then sent a forehand long.
With the momentum seemingly squarely with Gonzalez, it was no surprise to see him clinch an early break to streak 3-0 clear in the final set.
That became 4-1 and Soderling looked increasingly bereft of hope, but the Swede produced a remarkable turnaround as he broke back with a scorching forehand return winner.
Having held serve he then forced further break points in Gonzalez's next service game and converted the third with an fearsome backhand return.
The South American battled bravely to stay alive, but Soderling held his nerve and closed out the match fittingly with a booming forehand.