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Robin Soderling becomes the seventh player from Sweden to advance to the final of the French Open after intensely fighting back from a 1-4 deficit in the decider to overcome No. 12 seed Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, in three hours and 28 minutes.
Soderling will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Bjorn Borg, Swen Davidson and Mats Wilander who went on to lift the trophy. Only five men in the open era have gone on to win their first clay-court title at Roland Garros. The last man to achieve his feat was Gustavo Kuerten back in 1997.
The No.23 seed, who ended Rafael Nadal’s winning streak in the fourth round, competently traded blows with the Chilean in the pair’s early exchanges. However, it was the 27 year-old Gonzalez who sealed the first break of serve in the third game with a blistering backhand winner down the line. Soderling, undeterred, found his game and moved to a 4-2 lead before wrapping up the set in 34 minutes.
Gonzalez, who was in his first Grand Slam semi-final since his historic run to the 2007 Australian Open final, saved three break opportunities in the ninth game of the second set. In the next game he had a set point opportunity, but his opponent comfortably hit an ace down the line. Gonzalez fell 0-40 at 5-5 which helped the Swede to clinch the second set in 52 minutes.
In the third, the Chilean found his form, wearing down Soderling with his continuous winners. Nerves began to creep into Soderling’s game and in the 12th game, Gonzalez was gifted two set points. Soderling committed two unforced errors as Gonzalez emerged victorious from the 40 minute set.
Gonzalez, the 1998 Roland Garros junior champion, avoided a nightmare start to the fourth set when he saved three break points in the first game. At 4-4, the tension increased as Gonzalez questioned a line call that was called out. The No.12 seed went on to hit three straight aces, as Soderling’s serve forehand crumpled, Gonzalez leveled the score at two sets apiece.
In the deciding set, Gonzalez blasted to a 3-0 lead and a possible comeback looked probable. Incredibly, Soderling managed to regain control at the baseline and began attacking the net and 1-4 became 4-4. In the ninth game, Gonzalez saved two break points with an ace and an unforced error from Soderling. However, on the third break point opportunity, Soderling capitalised from the Chilean’s mistimed forehand.
The Swede then held his nerve to serve it out that extends his winning streak to nine matches.