ATP Tour

Soderling targets 2015 return

2014-10-21 16:32
Robin Soderling (File)

Stockholm - Robin Soderling has endured years away from professional tennis due to illness but the 30-year-old Swede is targeting a 2015 comeback with a fresh attitude to the game.

Famed for being the only man to defeat Rafael Nadal at the French Open, Soderling's career was cut short on an upward trajectory in 2011 when he was diagnosed with mononucleosis.

Unable to compete for three years as he endures the long recovery process, he has been forced to develop off the court and examine his whole approach to tennis.

"I'm a very different person outside the court than on the court," he told dpa in an interview in Stockholm when asked about his prickly reputation.

"And of course, I see myself in some matches, watching, of course, I look pissed, I look like not the nicest guy.

"Maybe I wasn't on the court. But to me on the court was something different than outside the court. This is how I work. I was always very focused."

That focus carried Soderling to consecutive French Open finals in 2009 and 2010, and on the former run he made history by handing Nadal his one and only loss to date on the clay of Roland Garros.

"Of course it was a big win," Soderling says. "It was actually the first time I went further than the fourth round in a Grand Slam.

"I had never been past the fourth round, so that was something really big, for the first time I was in the quarter-finals. And of course beating Nadal.

"I don't want to be remembered for winning one match against one player. Me beating him, I think it says more about him, how unbelievably good his record is.

"For me, I want to be remembered for reaching two Grand Slam finals, winning 10 titles. For me, that's bigger than winning one match."

The 2009 breakthrough in Paris gave Soderling the confidence needed to take victories over top players in smaller events to winning on the bigger stage of Grand Slams.

But then he was halted by mononucleosis.

"The first six months I couldn't walk 10 metres. I had to rest after five metres. It was horrible. That was six months, and the first year was really bad," he explains.

"But now it doesn't affect me any more except when I start to train more, I still feel a little bit. So all the time, even though it's been three years. All the time it was a little bit better, slowly. But so slow.

"There is not much they (doctors) can do. There is no medicine. I did everything. Now it's just the body needs to heal by itself."

Soderling says that were he an office worker, he would hardly feel the after-effects of his illness. But training for professional sport is something else plans for a comeback are developing cautiously.

"I will give it a try for sure, and then hopefully it will work. I will start to practice slowly, and hopefully it will work. But I have to take it slow."

In his enforced absence, Soderling has designed his own brand of tennis balls and took up the role of tournament director for the Stockholm ATP event recently won by Tomas Berdych.

It gave him an interesting perspective on tennis from the other side of the tramlines.

"You see players, they take a water and then drink this much (a small amount) and throw it away. I did the same myself when I was playing, I didn't think about it. But now as a tournament you see 200 water bottles ... And also small things. They take the towels. So you think in a different way when you're on the other side.

"I think as a player you get very spoiled. You have everything, every week, and you take it for granted."

"But it's also a very tough life, I noticed. They say you have everything, and you make a lot of money and you travel the world.

"But it's a very tough life, especially physically but also mentally. Because you have to perform every week, you have the pressure from the media, from the sponsors, with the rankings, from everybody.

"It's tough because the season is very long, so you have this pressure all the time, every week. Every week. And you don't get to rest very much.

If there's no chance like a second chance, Soderling gives the impression he would appreciate a return to court.

"When I was playing I didn't do much. I like to play golf, I like to go hunting. I like to go diving, but I didn't do it because no, no, I had to focus on the tennis.

"And that was stupid because I think it's easier to focus if you do different things outside the tennis. But I was inside my tennis bubble. My whole life was tennis.

"I think not many players are enjoying their life enough. Because we have a very tough life, but also we have so many good things. We do what we love to do.

"We started when we were kids, we do our hobby and have it as a job. But you travel from tournament to tournament it's like you go on this wheel, small mice. They run, and you don't stop.

"Now, after I couldn't play, because I remember a lot of times I thought 'I'm so tired of playing now. I want to go home, I don't want to travel, I've had enough'."

"So I think I should have appreciated it a bit more."

Read more on:    atp tour  |  tennis

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