x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Soderling remains on course

The hard-hitting Swede strikes again at Roland Garros by deposing the Russian Nikolay Davydenko, 6-1, 6-3, 6-1.

Robin Soderling proves his win over Rafael Nadal was no fluke as he claimed the scalp of the Russian world No 10 Nikolay Davydenko.
Robin Soderling proves his win over Rafael Nadal was no fluke as he claimed the scalp of the Russian world No 10 Nikolay Davydenko.

Robin Soderling, the hard-hitting Swede who rocked Roland Garros on Sunday by doing what many regarded as the impossible and dethroning the king of clay Rafael Nadal, capitalised on that good work yesterday by securing a place in a grand slam semi-final for the first time.

The journeyman Soderling, who is seeded 23, has grown into an aspiring champion and was almost contemptuous in his dominant 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 demolition of the resilient Russian Nikolay Davydenko, the world No 10 and a veteran of nine grand slam quarter-finals. Thoughts that Soderling would suffer an adverse reaction to the biggest victory of his career - the victory over the four-time champion on his favourite surface and at a place that he had never lost at previously - were instantly dispelled as the stylish Soderling romped through the first five games in next to no time.

That put the opening set beyond Davydenko, but the Russian came more into the match after that early mauling and he began to look more menacing until Soderling deflated him again with a crucial break in the seventh game of the next set which was followed by another clinching break in the ninth game. That meant Davydenko, who had welcomed beforehand the fact that he would not have to run around as much as he does against Nadal, had to go the maximum distance to keep alive his hopes of a first major title and that never looked like happening against a fully- focused Soderling.

Once the Swede had broken for the fifth time in the match - Davydenko had been restricted to only two break points, neither of which he could convert - the fighting spirit which has been a characteristic of Davydenko throughout his career evaporated and Soderling showed him no mercy by breaking again to clinch another impressive victory. Davydenko, who was celebrating his 26th birthday but seems to have been around for longer, is now running out of time in his ambition to have great consistency on the ATP tour rewarded with a first major title.

It is clear now that Soderling, two years his junior, has no intentions of wasting the opportunity his brilliant play here has created and after analysing his triumph with the media he was able to put his feet up and run the rule over his prospective semi-final opponents Andy Murray and Fernando Gonzalez. Soderling's heroics have been mirrored in the bottom half of the draw by the formidable Argentine player Juan Martin Del Potro who is also threatening to make his mark for the first time in a grand slam after powering his way into the quarter-finals at the expense of a big crowd favourite in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga,

The 6ft 6ins Del Potro, who has been steadily climbing the world rankings to a career high of five, was too strong for the Frenchman Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and after being briefly delayed by a tie-break disappointment in the second set of their battle, he carved out a 6-1, 6-7, 6-1, 6-4 triumph to reach the last eight. "I enjoyed playing on the centre court," said Del Potro. "This match was good for me. I was dictating everything, and that was in my favour against somebody like Tsonga.

"But we were both very nervous," added Del Potro, who today faces the 16th-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo for the right to meet either Roger Federer or Gael Monfils in the semi-finals. Monfils, the last remaining home player in the singles, accounted for the experienced American Andy Roddick to earn his crack at the former world No 1 who is desperate to win this French title to complete a career grand slam of major titles.

The gangling Frenchman, winner of junior grand slam honours but yet to fulfil his potential in the main arenas of the world, capitalised on Roddick's renowned vulnerability on clay to record an emphatic 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 success over the strong-serving American. wjohnson@thenational.ae