Federer knocked out by Soderling

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The Independent Online

Lightning struck twice for Robin Soderling at the French Open tonight as the giant-killing Swede stunned defending champion Roger Federer to reach the semi-finals.

Soderling, who last year produced one of the biggest upsets in grand slam history when he became the first man to beat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, followed that feat by ending Federer's run of 23 consecutive last-four appearances in majors.

It was very much unlucky 13 for the Swiss, who had won all 12 of his previous meetings with Soderling but went down 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 in a rain-hit match lasting two and a half hours on Philippe Chatrier Court.

The victory was also vengeance for Soderling's defeat in last year's final against Federer, whose last grand slam defeat prior to the semi-final stage came at the 2004 French Open.

Fifth seed Soderling, 25, was rewarded for a fearless approach in what was a high-octane affair that saw both men race through the points.

Soderling went into the match as the only player on tour to have faced Federer on more than 10 occasions and lost every time.

His dozen defeats had also seen him claim just two sets from the world number one, although one of those did come at last year's US Open and he did beat Federer in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi in January.

Desperate to show he had made further progress since, he almost found himself a break down in his opening service game before holding.

He then proceeded to match his opponent stroke for stroke before Federer took the second of two break points in game eight and duly served out the set.

It looked ominous for the Swede in the second set when he was once again forced to save break point in his first service game but he then stunned the world number one to move 2-0 ahead.

Federer - who had not dropped a set all tournament - had plenty of time to break back.

But he was never close to doing so as a confident Soderling shook off the onset of rain and a slight wobble serving for the set to level the match.

The contest continued in light rain and both men held comfortably in the third set until an extraordinary 10th game when an overrule spared Soderling 0-40 serving to stay in the set.

He did face set point at 30-40 but despite seeing Federer somehow return a vicious smash from the back corner of the court, he put away the resulting volley before holding.

Federer questioned the worsening conditions at 15-15 in the next, before Soderling joined in at 30-15 down, meaning play was suspended for one hour and 16 minutes.

When play resumed at 6.53pm local time, Federer collapsed, a double fault handing Soderling break point, which he converted with aplomb.

The Swede shook off a controversial overrule to take a two-sets-to-one lead with an ace.

Once more, Soderling made a poor start to a set when he fell break point down in game two of the third, and this time Federer made him pay.

But the Swiss immediately surrendered the advantage, losing serve to 15.

Play was halted again at 3-3 due to heavy rain but the players stayed on court and the break was only four minutes.

The hiatus seemed to affect Federer the most and he faced three break points, yelling "Come on!" after saving the third.

The top seed's game was disintegrating and a backhand error in game eight gifted Soderling the chance to serve for the match.

And, in keeping with his performance, the Swede made no mistake.

Soderling, who will now play Tomas Berdych after the Czech thrashed Mikhail Youzhny 6-3 6-1 6-2, said: "It was great, I really love to play on this court.

"As soon as I got here, immediately I felt confidence. I've played better and better every match and today I played really well.

"It cannot be much better. It's great to play on this court and it's for sure my favourite grand slam. To play the world number one on this court, it couldn't be better.

"I think everybody who's still in the draw can go all the way. It's really tough, I have a tough semi-final coming and I'll have to play my best to win it."