Patriot Söderling receives Borg approval

Robin Söderling has revealed that his giant-killing exploits at the French Open in Paris have been warmly received by his legendary Swedish compatriot Björn Borg.

Patriot Söderling receives Borg approval

Söderling, 24, beat Russian 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko on Tuesday to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final, having sensationally dumped defending champion Rafael Nadal out of the tournament on Sunday.

World number one Nadal was bidding to beat Borg’s record of four straight tournament successes, having equalled it in 2008, and Söderling said the great man was appreciative of the young Swede’s efforts.

“I got an SMS from him,” Söderling said after his 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 win against Davydenko. “He said congratulations and thank you for not letting Nadal break my record!

“It was weird to hear from Bjorn. He’s maybe the best player of all time.”

Söderling’s run to the last four has been one of the stories of the Roland Garros fortnight and the 23rd seed revealed he was still getting used to being the centre of attention.

“I’ve received a lot of SMS and phone-calls,” he said. “I get texts from people I don’t even know. I don’t even recognise some of the numbers.”

Sweden took home nine men’s singles title at Roland Garros during the 1970s and 1980s thanks to the efforts of Borg and Mats Wilander, but Söderling will be the first Swedish semi-finalist in Paris since his coach Magnus Norman in 2000.

Söderling admits that his nation is not the tennis heavyweight it once was, but hopes his example can lead the way for future generations.

“Hopefully this will grow interest in tennis in Sweden again,” he said.

“We had such a great tradition. For a country with only nine million people, we had so many great players.

“One year we had 19 or 20 guys in the main draw here in France. I think it goes up and down in every country. I know we have lots of good juniors coming up, so maybe in four or five years’ time I won’t be the only one.”

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Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?

Roger Federer is talking optimistically about returning to his "highest level" after knee surgery, but does tennis have to start adjusting to a future without the Swiss star?

Is this the end of the road for Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer?
Is it the end of the line for Roger? Photo: Martin BUREAU / AFP

The 20-time Grand Slam winner announced on Wednesday that he would be sidelined until 2021 after his second operation in a matter of months.

Federer remains upbeat, tweeting: “I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level.”

In some ways 2020 is a good season to miss after the coronavirus ravaged the tennis schedule. Writing Federer off in the past has proved dangerous.

He returned from a six-month injury lay-off to claim the Australian Open in 2017, winning his eighth Wimbledon crown later that year.

But he will be 40 in 2021 and is now heading into uncharted territory.

Despite his groaning trophy cabinet, there are two factors that will motivate Federer to keep going — the risk of losing his grip on the men's Grand Slam title record and a missing Olympics singles gold medal.

Rafael Nadal has 19 majors, just one shy of Federer's mark and Djokovic has 17.

Spain's Nadal will be fancied to draw level with Federer at the French Open, rescheduled for September, while few would bet against Djokovic winning in New York weeks earlier.

In April, Federer said he was “devastated” when Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II. Last year he fell agonisingly short at the All England Club, failing to convert two championship points on his own serve against Djokovic.

The Wimbledon grass probably remains his best chance of adding to his Grand Slam collection — he has not won the US Open since 2008 and his only title at Roland Garros came in 2009.

Even though Federer has slipped from the very pinnacle of the game, he is still a major threat to Nadal and Djokovic.

'Golden' ambitions

Last year, the world number four had a 53-10 win-loss record and he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January in his only tournament this year.

Federer, who is still six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors' all-time record of 109, has one glaring omission from his CV — the Olympic title.

The Swiss won doubles gold in Beijing in 2008 with compatriot Stan Wawrinka but lost in the singles final to Andy Murray in London four years later.

The postponed Tokyo Games will almost certainly be Federer's last opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam — he will turn 40 on the day of the closing ceremony next year.

Tennis will feel the loss of the elegant Federer keenly when he walks off the court for the last time.

Djokovic and Nadal have been the dominant forces in recent years but the Swiss remains the biggest draw and last month topped Forbes' list of the world's highest-earning athletes.

His last appearance on court was in front of nearly 52,000 fans — touted by organisers as a world record for tennis — at a charity match against Nadal in Cape Town in February.

Federer is nearly always the crowd favourite wherever he plays and has proved a perfect ambassador for the sport since he won his first Grand Slam title in 2003.

He certainly expects to be back and competitive next year.

“I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season,” he tweeted.

The avalanche of support from his adoring fans showed they would miss him too, but they will have to get used to a time when he is gone for good.