Robin Soderling pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Grand Slam history on Sunday when he blew away reigning champion Rafael Nadal in four sets. Intriguingly, the hard-hitting Swede has a reputation for putting his peers’ backs up at times, but it does not seem to bother him in the slightest.
“If people don’t like me, there’s nothing I can do about it. I just concentrate on my game. I’m here to play tennis, not to make friends. I don’t care about being famous.” says the current world No25, who broke into the top 20 for the first time in his career in February 2009.
His rematch with Nadal had been given extra spice by the cheek the Swede showed during their third-round encounter at Wimbledon in 2007. At the beginning of the fifth set, Magnus Norman’s protégé imitated the Spaniard by adjusting his underwear before every game.
“Quite frankly, that was a lot of fuss about nothing. I’m disappointed that Nadal complained to the press without talking to me about it directly. Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face.”
So has Soderling got any friends on the tour, apart from the ever-loyal Jarkko Nieminen? “Not many. I used to hang around with the other Swedes, but there are fewer on the circuit now,” says the softly-spoken Scandinavian, who toppled No14 David Ferrer in the third round.
Evidently, that lack of company does not weigh on him too heavily. Following an injury to his left wrist which kept him away from the tour between August 2007 and February 2008, Soderling had his best season ever in 2008, chalking up a win in Lyon, two finals and a place in the top 20. After a difficult start to the 2009 season, the Swede is finally enjoying the fruits of his consistency which, according to the man himself, failed him in the past.
“Now I feel that I can show my potential and accomplish great things. I want to get into the top 10 and the only way to do that is through being consistent. A handful of good results is not enough. All the guys in the top 30 dream of breaking into the top 10 and can make it happen. If I stay fit I know I can do it.”