Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 13: Soderling-Gonzalez Preview

Talk about your heavy metal thunder.  

In what is shaping up to be some very Swashbuckling clay-court tennis, dark horse Robin Soderling of Sweden is set to take on Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in tomorrow's first semi-final match on the red clay of Philippe Chatrier.  

The two bashers have met seven times previously, with Gonzalez winning the last four.  Additionally, Gonzalez has won both clay affairs against 6'4" Swede.  

But you can throw those stats out the window because they haven't met since 2007, and we all know that the current Robin Soderling didn't exist until last Sunday.  That was when the Swede orchestrated perhaps the biggest upset in the history of the French Open, stunning four-time defending champ Rafael Nadal in four dominant sets.  

Since then Soderling has gone on to roll over diminutive Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters, while Gonzalez was victorious (also in upset fashion) over No. 3 seed Andy Murray in his quarter final match.  

What makes this match particularly compelling is that both players are sort of the antithesis of clay-court tennis, with each hitting heavy and relatively flat, i.e. flatter ground strokes than most typically effective or quintessential clay courters.  

But this years version of the clay, according to players and journalists, seems to be a tad faster than years past, lending a new found legitimacy to the style of play that both players employ.  

Because of their electric games, and the fact that both Soderling and Gonzalez are on improbable runs to the semis, this figures to be a memorable match, and should keep the demanding French fans on the edges of their seats.  

Soderlings previous best run at Roland Garros was 2008, where he lost to Frenchman Julian Benneteau in the round-of-32.  He has never been past the round-of-32 in any major until now. 

Gonzalez has twice been to the quarter finals at Roland Garros, including a loss last year to Roger Federer in which he took one set.  

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