Nobody beats Robin Soderling 13 times in a row. Not even Roger Federer. Even if only in an exhibition match.
The Swede had borrowed the famous line from Argentine Vitas Gerulaitis after he lost the French Open final to Federer, to bring their head-to-head to 0-9. In 2009, Federer managed to keep a clean record against Soderling and took the tally to 12. But the number 13 proved unlucky for the Swiss.
“Losing to him 12 times finally taught me something,” Soderling, the top seed at the Chennai Open, said on Monday. The 24-year-old, who emerged as one of the challengers in 2009 as he snapped Rafael Nadal’s dash for his fifth French Open title in the fourth round, beat Federer in the Abu Dhabi exhibition event this week.
“To beat Federer anywhere is great. He is the best player in the world, for me the best of all time.” On the back of a remarkable season and equally good start to 2010, Soderling arrived on Sunday. Two practice sessions and buckets of sweat later, he rather sweetly labelled it a “nice tournament.”
And he is not exactly known for his sweetness. After losing to Soderling at Roland Garros, Nadal said he was not the friendliest person. “He’s very strange,” is how the more-fluent-than-ever-in-English Nadal said. “I have said hello to him seven times to his face, and he has never said hello to me. He never answers. I thought it was me. But I asked around the locker room; almost nobody had anything nice to say about him.”
Both Soderling, and his player-turned-coach Magnus Norman, put it down to focus rather than having anything against his fellow players.
“It’s just that I am focussed on my next match. I am not like this off the court,” he added.