Two-time French Open runner-up Robin Soderling considers Roger Federer the most difficult opponent he ever faced - even more than Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The Swede also ranks his only career win over Federer - at the 2010 French Open - higher than his famous upset of Nadal the year before.
Robin Soderling is one of only two players to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, having knocked out the Spaniard in the 2009 fourth round. Soderling went on to lose to Roger Federer in the final that year, but managed to avenge his defeat to the Swiss in the very next edition.
Funnily enough, in 2010, the Swede once again fell short in the final - this time to Nadal.
On a recent podcast titled 'The Functional Tennis Podcast', Soderling spoke at length about the final against Roger Federer in 2009. The now-retired Swede revealed that he was far from relaxed against the Swiss, who provided a match-up that was always very tough for him.
“Mentally was really tough for me,” Soderling said. “I was playing my first Grand Slam final, everything was happening so quickly for me. He played I don’t know how many Grand Slam finals. He was much more experienced. I played the top players many times, I won a few times but I lost many times especially against Roger."
"To me, Roger was always the most difficult opponent to play against," he added. "I'm not saying he is better than Rafa or Novak, but his game really didn’t suit my game."
The Swede further explained that he always found it difficult to assert himself in his matches against Federer. On the other hand, Soderling mentioned that he didn't face a similar problem against Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic.
“So many times I played against Roger, I came off the court and I felt like why did I play so poorly today,” Soderling said. “I know I have to play extremely well to beat him but, it was so difficult for me to play well against him. Against Rafa and against Novak even though I lost, I could still feel it was a good match, I played well, they were just better than me today.”
I played well against Rafael Nadal but against Roger Federer, I played even better: Robin Soderling
Robin Soderling believes that his best ever performance at Roland Garros came not against Rafael Nadal in 2009, but against Roger Federer in 2010. The former World No. 4 defeated the Swiss legend in a four-set quarterfinal that year.
“That was probably my best match at RG (2010 QF against Federer)," Soderling said. "I played well against Rafa but against Roger I played even better."
The Swede added that he made the best use of the heavy conditions on that day to finally find a solution against Roger Federer’s attacking brand of tennis.
“I was a bit lucky also because it was a rainy day, heavy conditions and Roger plays really fast and that’s why I had problems with my big strokes,” Soderling said. “I put pressure on him but the ball came back very fast all the time. I didn’t have time to play really heavy and deep. But then when it was slower conditions it got a bit easier for me, I got some extra time and I could hit hard enough to hit through those heavy conditions. It was a perfect day for me to beat a player like Roger that day.”