Söderling defends ATP Rotterdam title

Swedish French Open finalist Robin Söderling defended his ATP Rotterdam title with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 defeat of France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Sunday.

Söderling defends ATP Rotterdam title

He joins retired compatriot Stefan Edberg as a two-time winner of the indoor trophy. Two-time Roland Garros finalist Söderling could barely contain his joy after making it two titles in three events so far in 2011 with a 13-1 record.

“I’m incredibly happy about my win,” said the world number four, “It’s obvious that I like Rotterdam a lot.”

Söderling, the top seed who beat Mikhail Youzhny a year ago for the title when the Russian retired injured in the second set, now stands 4-0 over Tsonga after losing his first set in the series.

The Swede, retaining a title for the first time in his career, now owns eight trophiess from 18 ATP finals. Söderling maintained his domination over Frenchmen as he won an eighth consecutive match against a player from France.

“I played well in the important moments. It was a tough match with Jo, like always, but I was able to play my best tennis and keep up my momentum,” said Söderling, who also claimed honours a month ago in Brisbane as he beat holder Andy Roddick in that final to move into the Australian Open on a high.

“It feels great. When you come to a place where you’ve played well, it brings up good feelings. It’s tough to defend the title, it adds some extra pressure, but I had only positive feelings this week,” he added, who has enjoyed fresh success since starting with Italian coach Claudio Pistolesi in December 2010.

“I had many tough matches and I saved a match point in the second round. I had to fight a lot in every match but I had the margins on my side. I’ve had a great start to the season,” said Söderling.

Tsonga, seeded eighth, was denied his sixth career title after winning his last in October 2009 in Tokyo, the venue for his last final. The defeat was only his second in a final after losing the 2008 Australian Open trophy match to Novak Djokovic.

However, the Frenchman was content with his week and said he now feels that his tennis – stalled in 2010 with various injuries – has been re-born.

“I played a good match, in fact, it was my best of the week. I got better with each match this week, I’m pleased with the state of my game,” he said.

“I played well, but Robin was too strong, especially at the end of the match. I’ll take confidence form this match into Maresille next week and then hopefully into the Davis Cup [first round against Austria in Vienna],” added Tsonga.

Söderling claimed victory in one hour 22 minutes, but was out-aced by Tsonga 20 to 12. The Swede claimed the opening set after losing an early break but getting it back in the eighth game.

Tsonga answered to level the match in the second set, carrying momentum from a 4-2 lead over Söderling. Söderling re-asserted his big game in the third, moving into position with a break for 5-3 and serving out his 13th win of the year from 14 matches.

He began the season by winning the Brisbane title and suffered his only loss in the Australian Open fourth round against Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov. With the loss, the 18th-ranked Tsonga now stands 15-21 over his career against top ten players.

Söderling becomes the fourth player to win two Rotterdam titles, following the example of not only Edberg but American legend Arthur Ashe and Frenchman Nicolas Escude.

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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.