Soderling hangs tough to oust Llodra,Federer capitulates to Monfils

Robin Soderling of Sweden celebrates after defeating Michael Llodra of France during their Paris Masters tennis tournament semi-final match, November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

It will be Robin Soderling versus Gael Monfils this Sunday at the Paris Masters but not before both protagonists overcame hiccups en route to the final.

The first semi featured Michael Llodra—on a hot streak—against Swede Soderling.

The initial set went with serve 6-6. And it was Llodra—playing with the foot pressed to the accelerator—who romped home 7-0 in the tie-break.

That served as a wake-up call to Soderling who started to find his feet in the second, hitting his returns nice and deep. But it was all bazookas and Llodra’s brilliance until 5-5.

Soderling broke Llodra to go up 6-5 and then served out the set to make it 1-1.

Scintillating tennis continued with Llodra negating an early break to come roaring back into the match in the third set.

But the Frenchman—taking an injury break—was feeling the effects of being in overdrive all the time. Soderling was keeping him at the back of the court  and the serve started misfiring just a little.

The final set was level 6-6 despite a final game that lasted over 15 minutes. Soderling held on to push the match into the tie-breaker.

Llodra could only do so much and Soderling held the edge with his thundering serves not allowing the serve-and-volley specialist any room to manoeuvre.

In the end, it was Soderling’s grit and hard serving , coupled with his ability to eke out points at the net as well—unlike Davydenko on Friday—that saw the big man triumph.

For Llodra, the Paris Masters was validation of his ability to take down the best on his day. When on song, he is a panther at the net and his volleying reminds us of a young Sampras.

Tennis was the victor. The scoreboard read 6-7(0), 7-5, 7-6(6) in the Swede’s favour.

In the other semi-final, it was the aging champion Federer against a surging challenger , Gael Monfils—playing in front of a partisan, Parisian crowd. The final score: 7-6(7), 6-7(1), 7-6(4).

Federer failed to convert five match-points; he must be wondering when this mental failing crept into his game!

The athletic Monfils makes this his second successive final at the Paris Masters. Can he go all the way?

Only Soderling stands in his way. Soderling beat Monfils at Valencia last week in the quarter-finals.

Monfils on beating Federer:

“I’m happy I won against Rog. He’s someone I admire a lot. He’s a legend of tennis, ‘the’ legend, and beating him is a beautiful victory. I will remember that for my whole life. And also it happened in very special conditions for me, in Paris, so it’s only happiness. I was thinking it was a very good experience. This is why you practice all the time. It’s to experience those special moments. The crowd was great. They were behind me. Well, you need to dare try something, and I was lucky because I was successful. On those match points I was trying to control myself, otherwise it would have been too difficult.”

Federer remained upbeat about his chances at the World Tour Finals in London:

“I feel good. I’m playing well. It was not a bad match today. I’m happy with my performance. Clearly with a victory today I would have had big chances of winning this tournament tomorrow. This is not the case, so now I have to look at the future. I’m going to prepare for London.I feel good physically. In a way it is a relief that I was able to finish the tournament in good physical health. I’m fresh mentally, too. This is the most important thing. I’m going to back to Switzerland quickly and I’m going to prepare for London, because London is the great final of the year. I think I have good chances maybe in London for winning."

But for now it’s about the Paris Masters. May the best man win!

Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.

Karl Marx

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