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Robin refuses to sing

After almost every point Robin Soderling turned towards his coach, Magnus Norman, looking for inspiration or encouragement, reports Deepti Patwardhan.

sports Updated: Jan 05, 2010 22:33 IST
Deepti Patwardhan

After almost every point Robin Soderling turned towards his coach, Magnus Norman, looking for inspiration or encouragement. His guns were misfiring and he was up against a player, who though ranked 100 currently, has had years of grind on the tour and made it to the semifinal of the US Open in 2005 where he lost to Andre Agassi.

On the sidelines, Norman could only sympathise. As Soderling lost 4-6, 5-7 to Robby Ginepri in the season-opener on Tuesday, the coach and ward became two of the Chennai Open top seeds to lose in the first round.

Norman, who has made the trip to India thrice, was the number one seed in 2001 when he went down 3-6, 6-7 to USA’s Taylor Dent. Incidentally, it was also the season right after his best year on the tour when he made the French Open final (losing to Gustavo Kuerten). The only other numero uno to get the boot in the opening match has been Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 2000.

“Everything went wrong today,” said Soderling, who had come to Chennai on the back of a good exhibition weekend at Abu Dhabi, where he beat Roger Federer for the first time.

“I did not feel comfortable at all. I haven’t felt this bad on the court for a long time. I hope it was just one off day.”

As opposed to Ginepri, who arrived in the city on Thursday, Soderling joined the party only on Sunday morning and didn’t have much time to acclimatise. But the 24-year-old Swede refused to put down his loss to the hotter, more humid conditions in India.

With huge shots off both wings he possesses, Soderling has the power to blast any opposition off the court. And that’s what he went for in the match. But the American proved a tough man to budge. He returned serve well and scampered at every final shot Soderling attempted.

The top seed had his chances in the second set, when he was a triple break point up for a 4-0 lead. But he frittered that away and then let Ginepri sneak in a break as he missed three consecutive overheads. “I tried a few and he missed them,” said Ginepri later.

“I am not sure if he couldn’t see the ball well so I kept lobbing the ball.”