As The Draw Turns
June 26, 2009 -- Roger Federer has to be the most comfortable man on Centre Court at Wimbledon. He always looks calm and collected. Why shouldn't he be with a record in the finals of 5 - 6, the one loss coming last year.
Pundits call it the Best Match Ever! Of course it was thrilling, long and finally decided when Federer hooked a forehand short. It hit the tape and Rafael Nadal feel flat on his back in relief and celebration. However, many of Roger's fans still cannot bring themselves to watch that match and relive the agony. Their king dethroned.
Mr. Federer, though, has found a brand new level of calm, since he hoisted the Coupe des Mousquetaires at Roland Garros. His nemesis Nadal was out of the French before anyone could say week two. In the final match, the man who toppled the King of Clay -- Robin Soderling -- stood across the net from Federer as an ironic reflection of what might have been another round with the Spaniard.
Similarly here, with the reigning champion home in Majorca fishing and rehabbing two sore knees, Federer has cast his line in hopes of catching his sixth Gentlemen's Singles Trophy. But before he kisses the silver gilt cup, which has been presented to the champions since 1887, he must play Robin Soderling one more time.
During the trophy presentation at Roland Garros, Mr. Soderling said to Roger Federer, and the entire audience, that the next time they met he would beat him. At that moment, the comment was said mostly in jest, a celebratory mood prevailed. At least Soderling smiled, which was the first time in the entire competition. However, the tone of his comment could now be taken differently, as if it were a friendly threat or premonition.
"If you asked me before Paris, I would say he's definitely more dangerous on grass than on clay," Federer began. "But then you saw all those great matches he played in Paris and you're worried, too."
Roger is 10-0 against the Swede. Sure seems history will repeat itself, which would mean the record would be 11-0 after their match. We always want to predict, guessÉ speculate. It's not possible.
Robin Soderling has changed, that's a fact. His mindset has been altered quite drastically since Paris. He tasted Grand Slam fame and fortune. He beat Rafael Nadal on his home court, a feat no one accomplished in four years. That's saying a lot. Who's to say he can't do the same thing at Wimbledon with Roger Federer -- the King of Grass -- across the net?
"I try not to underestimate because I respect all the players in a big way," Roger said. "And he's definitely one of those guys you come out and you might play well, but it still isn't enough. It's like today, for instance. Kohlschreiber, he hung in there even though I was playing great. That's what I expect from Soderling. He's got a huge game."
No matter the opponent the sun will rise on the green lawns at the All England Club, and these two men will walk out, a blank canvas for them to paint. Roger Federer's inspiration and confidence against Soderling is bolstered because of his record. Soderling on the other hand has nothing to lose, and so much more to gain than a slight uptick in his career record against the man many many people worldwide would love to see win a sixth Wimbledon Cup.
Earlier Columns from this Event:
June 25, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Hewitt Takes Charge as Murray Rolls
June 24, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Young and Old Compete at Wimbledon
June 23, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Sunny Wimbledon
June 22, 2009 Wimbledon Coverage: Wimbledon... The Perfect Grand Slam