Saturday, May 24, 2008

Robin Soderling Leads Swedes to Fourth Title

ARAG ATP World Team Championship Sweden Champion: Sweden's Robin Soderling, Robert Lindstedt, Thomas Johansson and coach Peter Carlsson, from left, hold the trophies after winning the final against Russia at the ATP tennis World Team Cup in Duesseldorf
Robin Soderling Leads Swedes to Fourth Title

Sweden clinched its fourth title at the ARAG ATP World Team Championship, defeating Russia 2-1 on Saturday at the Rochusclub in Düsseldorf as Robin Soderling became just the third player in the 31-year tournament history to win all four singles and four doubles matches during the same week.

Sweden now joins Germany, Spain and the United States as title leaders at the ARAG ATP World Team Championship. Sweden also won the ARAG ATP World Team Championship in 1988 (d. USA 2-1), 1991 (d. Yugoslavia 2-1) and 1995 (d. Croatia 2-1), and finished as runner-up in 1986 (l. to France) and 1999 (l. to Australia).

Robert Lindstedt and Soderling clinched the Championship tie for Sweden, coming back from down a set and a break in the decisive doubles match to defeat Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny, 4-6, 7-6(5), 11-9. They saved one Championship point at 8-9 in the Match Tie-break with a backhand winner by Lindstedt, and then clinched the title on their first Championship point when Tursunov’s return sailed long.

"It was an incredible match, it is an incredible tournament," said Lindstedt. "I was here for the first time but would love to come for the next hundred years. I would like to thank my team that they included me and our whole coaching staff, and particularly also the sponsors ARAG, Air Berlin and the others without whom such an event could never be held."

Soderling gave Sweden the early lead by defeating World No. 16 Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-1 in 63 minutes. He went 4 for 4 on his break point chances, first breaking Youzhny to go up 4-2 in the first set then securing the victory by winning the final six games.

Thomas Johansson picked up where his compatriot left off, converting on his first two break point chances in the reverse singles match against Igor Andreev to roll out to a 4-0 lead. The Russian recovered a break of serve in the sixth game, but Johansson broke right back and then closed out the set.

Andreev then pulled together to keep Russia’s title hopes alive. He broke the Swede to go up 3-1 in the second set and again in the first game of the third set en route to the 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win, leveling the tie at 1-all.

Soderling, who made his tournament debut last year, is the third player behind American John McEnroe in 1984 and Chile's Fernando Gonzalez in 2003 to win all four singles and all four doubles matches. He defeated Argentine Guillermo Canas, Czech Tomas Berdych and American James Blake in Round Robin play.

In doubles, he and Lindstedt collected the bonus prize money of €12,000 for finishing as the top doubles team, plus a shared €10,000 for winning the doubles match in the final.

Sweden was the eighth-seeded team this week in its 27th event appearance, but emerged as the only undefeated team in Round Robin play with victories over defending champion Argentina (3-0), the Czech Republic (2-1) and the United States (2-1) in the Red Group.

Russia was making its 11th appearance at the ARAG ATP World Team Championship, but its first since the 2002 final (l. to Argentina). Russia also finished as runner-up in 2000 (l. to Slovakia) and 2001 (l. to Australia).

"It was a very close match," said Youzhny. "We are upset for having lost in the final once again. But I'm sure we will back maybe next year to finally win the ARAG World Team Cup. The crowd was great all week long and we just have to thank the organizers to put such a nice event for the players."

Russia finished atop the Blue Group standings with wins over Italy (2-1) and Germany (3-0) in Blue Group action, and received help as Italy came back to defeat Spain on Friday.

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AP Photo/Martin Meissner