Giant-killer Soderling fells Federer to reach final four

LIGHTNING struck twice for Robin Soderling at the French Open last night 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.

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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.

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

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.

Later the top seed's game appeared to disintegrate and a backhand error in game eight gifted Soderling the chance to serve for the match. And the Swede made no mistake.

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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. To play the world number one on this court, it couldn't be better.

"I have a tough semi-final coming and I'll have to play my best to win it."