October 20, 2014
I suppose the easy (or cheesy?) way to start would be to say that I’ll try to paint you a picture. It’s not the picture of a painter, though Robin Soderling sure does dress like a painter these days.
It’s not one with the perfect ending, either. In fact, it has no ending to speak of, as if the painter had sort of stopped midway and said that he was done with it. To start the 2011 season, Soderling won three events out of four on the ATP World Tour and was soaring…until his ascent came to a brutal end, right around Wimbledon. He would be diagnosed with mononucleosis and the question would change from whether Soderling would ever win a Grand Slam tournament to whether he would ever come back.
About 1,200 days later, neither has happened. But The New York Times has caught up with the Swede last week for a fascinating feature (which starts with Soderling and paint, and thus the lede to my column). I recommend everyone to read it, but I’ve taken the liberty of underlining a few of my favourite highlights from The Times’ reporting.
-Robin Soderling is designing tennis balls.
That’s right. I don’t think I could possibly think of any more fitting occupation for the man who remains the only one in history to have had the fortitude and the cojones (and the deadly forehand) to overthrow Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. Maybe the Swede doesn’t play tennis competitively anymore, but he has just been named tournament director of the Stockholm Open for a year—and in the meantime, he’s designing the tennis balls that he hopes will be used at the event next year. I know of no one else who designs tennis balls, and it’s only right. You probably need to have a win over Nadal in France on your resume.
-Robin Soderling discusses paint.
File this one under “sounds so good as a concept.” If all you do is read the lede of that feature, then all you’ll have is this: “Robin Soderling was not sure where the paint should go.” That’s all you’ll have—well, that and the photo that goes with the feature, which turns Soderling into some kind of fancy painter or artist. Regrettably, the only paint that he is not sure where to put is not on any postmodern tableau he may have designed. Rather, it’s just the paint with which the Stockholm Open logo will be painted. It’s too bad, you say, but you think that maybe Soderling reads this column. And you think that if he does, maybe he takes this suggestion to heart and becomes a painter. And signs his paintings “Robin,” not “Soderling.”
-Dora the Explorer conquers all.
The man who broke Nadal’s 31-match unbeaten streak at Porte d’Auteuil in 2009 is no match for the über-popular cartoon. In the feature, we learn that Soderling was watching a match during this year’s US Open when his daughter walked in the room. She watched with him for a minute, and then asked him to watch Dora. And, because she probably did that thing where children ask just the darnest thing but with the most adorable face, and because her father loves her very much, well, they watched Dora.
-Even Robin Soderling is powerless against his children.
And maybe this final one is related to the previous one, actually. Maybe Soderling’s daughter wants to watch Dora only because she doesn’t know what it’s like to watch tennis. No young child would want to watch tennis, but if it were his or her father playing? Then it’s something different. Then, maybe that child would want to watch tennis.
But only if daddy is playing. Which he might still do. (Ish.)
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
June 9, 2014
Well, talk about boring. Right? Rafael Nadal won the 2014 French Open by defeating Novak Djokovic in four sets of 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 and 6-4 in three hours and 31 minutes.
There’s no way around it. Nadal is boring. Specifically, him winning Roland Garros is boring. Boring is boring, and nobody likes boring. And that’s why we do it. What, exactly?
In anticipation of the French Open every year, we assess the forces on the ATP World Tour and we fool ourselves. We reason that Novak Djokovic, the second best player on clay in the world (the privilege of which is to hold a now tidy 0-6 record against Nadal in Paris), may win the tournament this year. That he might complete the career Slam. We ground our reasoning on whatever, because that’s essentially as good a reason as any other one.
We say that Djokovic might complete the career Slam, but why exactly? Because it’s time. Because he’s donated the prize money that he won for capturing the BNL Internazionali d’Italia to the flood relief efforts in his native Serbia. Because he’ll soon be a newlywed too, and that he’s about to be a father.
You want other reasons? We even come up with some that are at least somewhat related to tennis. We posit that the weather may give the advantage to the Serb, if only it can be cool and rainy. We mention that Djokovic has turned a corner since the above-mentioned win in Rome, as if all roads to France went through Italy. Oh, but not everyone stands strong. Sometimes, we predict that Novak will win only to do an about-turn at the very last possible second and explain that actually, Nadal should be the favourite. (Greg Garber also writes that Ladbrokes had made the Spaniard a 4-to-5 favourite entering the final. That was our cue—the house never loses.)
But mostly, we do it, because it’d be so much fun. Most of us like boring in our daily lives—we don’t like, necessarily, to see the IKEA chair we’ve just assembled lose its leg just as we sit down on it. But goddamn is it not funny when that same thing happens to our best friend. Well, every year in Paris, we assemble our IKEA chair and ask our best friend to sit on it, and when he does and nothing happens, then we fume. Because we know that we’re the only other person that’s going to sit on it, and of course the leg will fall.
That IKEA chair is Djokovic and Nadal playing at the French Open. We like boring in our daily lives, sure, but we hate it in sports. Change is hard, but it’s so much fun in sports.
Well, we’re wrong. All of us. Year after year, Nadal winning the French Open is anything but boring. Legend has it that he’s actually lost once in his career in Paris, though nobody can confirm that it has happened. (It would help if Robin Soderling were to give us a sign that he still knows how to hit a crosscourt forehand. I mean, where are you, Soderling? Oh, really?? Don’t call it a comeback! This loss just adds to Nadal’s mystique. Sure, he lost, but a relative unknown.)
But that’s what’s fun. Excellence is fun. Being in awe is a great feeling. What do you say when you’ve run out of things to say? When a man has won one Grand Slam tournament two more times than any other man in history has won any other Grand Slam? When this man hasn’t lost on this court in 1,833 days? When this man has a 31-win streak in France that’s not the longest ever, because he’s currently riding a 35-match streak at this same event? When he’s a career 66-1 at the Porte d’Auteuil? When everyone already knows all those statistics? What do you say then?
You say it’s boring. But how can this be boring? Now sit on your IKEA chair.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG
May 27, 2013
I might look like a fool by the end of Roland Garros, because I predict that Novak Djokovic will win his very first French Open and complete the career Grand Slam.
Of course, that’s far from an outlandish prediction. The Serb is the current alpha male on the ATP World Tour, and by a mile, and has six Grand Slam tournaments to his name—but he will need a monumental effort if he wants to take the final leap.
That’s because the Court Philippe Chatrier also happens to be Rafael Nadal’s backyard. The Spaniard’s successes in Paris need no reminder. Let’s just mention his record eight titles and 52-1 playing record—his one blemish looking more and more like a fluke loss in the round of 16 in 2009. (A fluke, because Nadal withdrew from many tournaments, including Wimbledon, and rested for a few months afterward, and because Robin Soderling, who beat him that French Open, has essentially gone missing.)
Currently in 2013, no one is playing better than Nadal, in part because the calendar is in the thick of the clay court season.
I know all of that, and still I’m taking Djokovic.
On the French Open clay, he is the lone player capable of making life miserable for the Spaniard. Granted, there are probably more players capable of beating Djokovic on clay than there are with Nadal, but I’ll take the odds. (Plus, I predicted this just a month ago. I’d look even more foolish to change my tune right now. He’s my favourite player too, so of course I want him to win.)
A lot has been made about Djokovic’s recent loss against Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Internazionali BNL d’Italia event, just a round before a potential showdown against Nadal. In the match against Berdych, the Serb led 6-2 and 5-2 but lost in three sets. That’s a bad loss, and there’s no other way to look at it. He should have won, and he’ll be the first to admit it.
But I’ll point to the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters, where Djokovic dominated Nadal and left little doubt as to who the better player was that day. His backhand, especially, was lethal that day and Nadal was never really in control of the match.
For the French Open, I’m also banking on Djokovic’s drive and determination. Every year, it seems like he sets lofty goals to reach. That’s how the 2012 season, where he started and ended at the top of the rankings, won one Grand Slam title, reached the finals of another two, and the semifinal of a fourth, can be looked at as a failure. That’s because in 2012, Djokovic had wanted 1) to win Roland Garros and 2) to win a gold medal at the London Olympics—and he failed at both.
This season, it looks like Djokovic had his sights set, first, on Monaco. The event is played in the country where he lives, yet he had never been able to defeat the King of Clay at Monte Carlo in his quest to overtake Rafa on clay…until this year.
His second goal for 2013, really, starts right now. It’s a Roland Garros title and a place in tennis lore.
The event gets underway this week. Novak will either make me look like a genius or like a fool. One sounds so much better than the other.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
December 8, 2011
Former world No. 4 Robin Soderling told his fans on Twitter today that he hopes for an ATP World Tour return in February. The hard-hitting Swede was struck with mononucleosis in July and has since to play a competitive match.
“Hello my friends,” Soderling said on Twitter. I am very sorry for being away for so long and for not giving many updates but my recovery has been longer than expected. I am feeling better with each day but it will still take some time before I can start practicing in full speed. My goal is to start with practice in January and I hope for tournament comeback in February but at this stage it is hard to know when and where. I hope my body will allow me to do that. I will try to give you more updates. I love reading your messages and appreciate your support and encouragement very much.”
Soderling began 2011 in strong form, recording an 18-1 record. The Tibro native is currently ranked No. 13 in the world.
September 8, 2011
World No. 6 Robin Soderling confirmed on his Facebook page earlier today that he has been battling mono for quite some time. The Swede, who was forced to pull out of the summer hard-court Masters events as well as the US Open, will look to return to the courts when he’s fully fit.
“It’s been a difficult period but I am getting better,” Soderling told his fans on Facebook. Doctors confirmed that I have had mono for quite some time and this truly explains my lack of energy but my health is improving and I hope to be back on the court as soon as possible. Thank you so much for your support and hope to see you soon.”
Soderling hasn’t played on Tour since winning his hometown event in Bastad.
August 7, 2011
Robin Söderling and artist Ernst Billgren met up at the Swedish Open in Båstad, Sweden earlier this summer to create a sculpture for the Non-Violence Tour. The sculpture was later unveiled at the opening ceremonies at the tournament.
Soderling showcased his pin-point accuracy for this worthy cause.
August 4, 2011
Former winner Andy Roddick and current world No. 5 Robin Soderling have both withdrawn from next week’s Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada.
Roddick (oblique muscle injury), and Soderling (wrist) join the growing list of injured players to miss the year’s six Masters 1000 event. Jurgen Melzer (quad), Milos Raonic (hip), Xavier Malisse (personal), Sam Querrey (elbow injury) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (appendicitis) have also withdrawn.
July 17, 2011
World No. 5 Robin Soderling captured his fourth ATP World Tour title on Sunday by dismissing David Ferrer in the final of the SkiStar Swedish Open on Sunday.
Defeating Soderling 6-2, 6-2, Soderling didn’t drop a set all week, while losing all but 13 games through four matches. Improving to 10-4 against Ferrer in lifetime meetings, Soderling won his second title in the last three years.
Ferrer, who aided Spain in a victory over the United States in Davis Cup last weekend, fell to 2-3 in finals this year.
July 15, 2011
World No. 5 Robin Soderling announced this week during his hometown event in Bastad, Sweden that he will be launching his own foundation; a talent award, and become the ambassador for a Non-Violence Project.
The breakdown of Soderling’s new endeavors can be found at the link below.
July 15, 2011
Juan Carlos Ferrero defeats Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-3; Pablo Andujar defeats Cedrik-Marcel 6-2, 6-1; Federico Del Bonis defeats Pavol Cervenak 6-1, 6-2.
SkiStar Swedish Open—Båstad, Sweden
No. 2 seed David Ferrer defeats Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-1, 6-1; No. 4 seed Nicolas Almagro defeats Michael Ryderstedt 6-4, 7-6(4); No. 1 seed Robin Soderling defeats No. 8 seed Potito Starace 6-3, 6-4; No. 3 seed Tomas Berdych defeats Blaz Kavcic 6-1, 6-4.
Michael Ryderstedt defeats Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-4, 6-2; No. 4 seed Nicolas Almagro defeats Guillermo Olaso 6-2, 6-3.