Soderling reaches final after five-set thriller
Sweden's Robin Soderling came from 4-1 down in the final set to down 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez in a riveting battle of the big hitters to reach the French Open final today.
Soderling, the conqueror of reigning champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, continued his remarkable run at Roland Garros by posting a 6-3 7-5 5-7 4-6 6-4 victory over Chilean powerhouse Gonzalez in an epic match that lasted three hours and 28 minutes.
The 23rd seed reaches his first grand-slam final, where he will meet either Roger Federer or Juan Martin del Potro.
Gonzalez, a barrel-chested, bandana-wearing slugger, had left his previous opponents punch-drunk with his booming forehand - Britain's Andy Murray can testify to that.
The 28-year-old met his match here, although after coming back from two sets down and taking an early lead in the fifth, he would have fancied his chances.
Prior to Roland Garros, Soderling had not won more than two matches at any tournament since winning a title in Lyon in October last year.
He had never previously progressed past the third round at a Major, but his form has been sensational these past two weeks.
Swedish legend Bjorn Borg was even in the crowd today to cheer him on.
Borg, a six-time champion here, had sent Soderling a congratulatory text message after his amazing win over Nadal and would have been impressed with the way the 24-year-old began.
Soderling won four games on the spin to storm into a 5-2 lead and had hit 16 winners by the time he held serve to take the opening set.
Gonzalez, who has pocketed eight clay-court titles down the years, is more at home of this surface. He was attempting to mix his game up more but the composed Soderling, coached by 2000 Roland Garros finalist Magnus Norman, remained unruffled.
After saving a set point in game 10 of the second set, he picked up four break points in the next and took one to go 6-5 up when Gonzalez first slammed a forehand wide. The Swede then recovered from 0-30 to serve out for the set.
You felt sorry for the ball the way it was being smacked about. That is just the way Gonzalez likes it, and his fightback was stunning.
He earned his first break points of both the third and fourth sets in what proved to be their final games, taking both at the first time of asking.
And in the fifth set, he broke in game two to race into 3-0 and 4-1 leads.
Soderling looked down and out but he recovered.
He broke back in the seventh game thanks to two marvellous winners from either wing on successive returns of serve, and another backhand winner on his third break point in game nine saw him go 5-4 ahead.
A superb forehand, his 74th winner of the match, sealed his win.
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