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Soderling Ends Djokovic Winning Streak To Book Semi-final Spot

Posted by on Nov 25th, 2009 and filed under  Top Stories, Latest News, Tennis. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Sweden’s Robin Soderling backed up his impressive opening win over World No. 2 Rafael Nadal by defeating defending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals champion Novak Djokovic 7-6(5), 6-1 in Group B action Wednesday at The O2 in south-east London.

Soderling, making his debut at the season finale as a late replacement for the injured Andy Roddick, is the first singles player through to the semi-finals at the season climax. The Tibro native is the first Swede to reach the semi-finals since Jonas Bjorkman at Hannover in 1997. It is the second year in a row, and the fourth time in the past five years, that the No. 8 seed has reached the semi-finals or better.

“It’s great,” said Soderling. “Top eight, top nine guys in the world here. I mean, I won two matches in straight sets against the World No. 2 and No. 3. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. So far I’m enjoying it a lot. But there’s still at least two more matches to go. I hope to do really well in those two, as well.”

“He has nothing to lose,” said Djokovic. “I think it’s his first [Finals]. He won four straight sets and absolutely deserved to qualify for the semi-finals. I think he’s the best player so far in the tournament.”

In a controlled performance from the 25-year-old Soderling, he took full advantage of Djokovic’s weariness and, following a tight opening set, dismantled the Serb to take victory in 97 minutes.

Djokovic, who has played (96) and won (77) more matches than anyone else on the ATP World Tour this season, had edged Nikolay Davydenko in his opening match but appeared out of energy reserves in his sixth meeting with Soderling.

The Belgrade native, who later admitted to being “very” tired, managed to save three set points in the 10th game of the first set but could not hold off a determined Soderling in the tie-break. The Swede launched a rifling forehand return to maneuver Djokovic out of position before punching a forehand volley away to earn a 6-4 lead in the tie-break and sealed it on his own serve as Djokovic failed to get the ball back in play.

In a 29-minute second set, Soderling won the final six games of the match with controlled aggression and few errors. Djokovic was unable to move around the court to the best of his ability and, in attempting to end the points quickly, more often than not made the error.

“I didn’t enjoy playing today’s match, that’s for sure,” admitted Djokovic. “He was serving really well. All credit to him. I don’t think I played too much (this season). I just played very solid in all the tournaments that I was committed to play.”

Defeat for Djokovic ends the right-hander’s 11-match winning streak, which saw him win back-to-back ATP World Tour titles at the Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel (d. Federer) and the BNP Paribas Masters (d. Monfils) in Paris (Bercy) coming into the season finale. The Monte-Carlo resident, who defeated Davydenko to win the title last year, has won five ATP World Tour titles from a career-high 10 finals this season and reached the quarter-finals or better in 19 of 21 tournaments.

Soderling stopped a five-match losing streak against Djokovic and avenged the defeat he suffered to the 22 year old two weeks ago in the quarter-finals of the BNP Paribas Masters.

The right-hander, who is coached by former World No. 2 Magnus Norman, will finish the 2009 ATP World Tour season inside the Top 10 of the South African Airways ATP Rankings for the first time in his career. He reached his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros, taking out four-time defending champion Nadal in the fourth round before losing to Roger Federer, and won his fourth ATP World Tour title at the Catella Swedish Open (d. Monaco) in Bastad.

Norman was the last Swede to play at least three matches at the season finale in 2000 and Soderling said his coach and imparted some advice. “He told me to see it as any other tournament. He told me when he was here, he was very tired, so he couldn’t really give hundred percent. I feel pretty good physically, even though it’s been a very long year. But, again, I try to see it as any other tournament. So far it’s been working.”

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