Robin Soderling Defeats Roger Federer: Why He Is the Giant Killer

Bryan MarshallContributor IJune 2, 2010

His name is Robin Soderling, and he is the Giant Killer.


He hails from the northern reaches of Europe. From the frigid landscapes of Sweden. The icy waters of the Baltic Sea coarse his veins. His pale skin and steely blue eyes set him starkly apart from the background of the red French clay that is his battlefield.

At 6’ 4” and 195 pounds, the ferocious monster swings his weapon with the same ruthlessness as a Gaulic warrior his broadsword into Roman legions. Starting with his brawny legs, he generates unimaginable upward force that uncoils his midsection, unleashing the potential energy gifted the upper half of his imposing figure by millions of years of evolution. The potential becomes the actual as the force explodes out through his torso to his arms, and into a small yellowish sphere at the menacing command of his Head Liquidmetal Radical MP strung to a tension of 68.9 lbs.

The sphere then travels at speeds only physicists can confirm (though some doubt) is within the realm of possibility. His targets are small and often impossible to decipher at first, but his intent is obvious. When the sphere which he controls with unfathomable precision leaves the face of his weapon, it is not to do any direct physical damage to his foes. Rather, it is to compliantly create marks on the battlefield of the court in accordance with its masters bidding, thus leaving irrefutable evidence of the truth. And the truth is that the damage that Robin Soderling does is mental, and it leaves even the proudest warriors searching deep inside for answers which are not there to be found.

For a warrior of such acclaim, the Swede’s motto is somewhat unremarkable, though certainly telling – “I did not join the Tour to make friends.”

Ironically, the Swede did make some friends about a year ago. Many thousands of them, in fact, as he laid waste to the greatest clay-court giant in the history of the world. To the disbelief of Rafael Nadal and, indeed, a full house of spectators, as well as millions of viewers around the globe, the indomitable Spaniard suffered his first loss ever in the clay of Paris at the hands of Soderling. The fans of one Roger Federer were left indebted to the work of the Swede, though they did provide their sympathies upon his ultimate defeat to the great Swiss Maestro in French Open final of 2009.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that the man who opened the door for Federer to win his career Grand Slam and record-tying 14th major  tennis championship should return the following year to claim compensation from the benefactor of his efforts.  Though the compensation was, by default, monetary as the Swede moves on to the semi-finals while the Swiss returns home with the pay-cheque of a quarter-final loss - it was, in truth, legendary. Soderling also takes with him to the next round knowledge that of Federer’s last 166 opponents in Grand Slam tournaments, it was he, and he alone, who was able to claim Federer’s scalp before the final two rounds.

Twelve consecutive times the Swede’s tormentor and the shatterer of his dreams, the Swiss antagonist was unable to dictate the outcome of the match through his guile and cunning as he had in the past. Federer’s best efforts did not suffice as the vengeance of the Nordic warrior blew by him in flashes of yellow on white with splashes of red.  As the match wore on, the Swede would even call upon supernatural powers to beckon down torrents of rain from the heavens, denying his opponent a chance to recover from the soul-scarring thrashing so brutally bestowed upon him. Dampening the clay, the ball, the wind, and the Swiss’ spirit, Soderling relished in the air of pathetic fallacy as he delivered the final blows to his helpless foe.

As Soderling moves on to lock horns with his sixth opponent of this tournament, the number six shares a different significance for the vanquished– six is the number of years, almost to the day, that Federer last lost a match in a major tournament before the semi-finals. This is no small streak to bring to an end and, indeed, it has been hailed by many as one of the most incredible and irreproducible feats in the whole of sports. It is the sort of work that can be carried out only by the hands of a giant killer.

When he last doled out bloody retribution to his Spanish nemesis, Rafael Nadal, in May 2009 at Roland Garros, the wounds he left were so deep that the blood gushed unfettered until April 2010 when Nadal finally claimed his first tournament since the demoralizing defeat. Might his newest unsuspecting victim suffer a similar fate? Only time will tell, but one thing is known – regardless of his future conquests in tennis, the Swede has carved out a place in its history. And what a place of shock and awe for those who have borne the weight of his carving.

His name is Robin Soderling, and he is the Giant Killer.


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