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Federer wary of Soderling threat

WITH no Rafael Nadal to torment him from the other side of the net in today's men's French Open final, Roger Federer must be thinking that this must be his year to win the elusive Musketeers' Cup.

Right? Wrong.

Nadal may have left the building but his conqueror has not and Federer is all too aware the threat Sweden's Robin Soderling poses to his hopes of becoming only the sixth man to win all four majors.

"There are no easy grand slam finals," said the Swiss world No. 2, who also stands one win away from a record-equalling 14th grand slam crown. "It's very simple, because the one who is on the other side of the net has also won six matches and is definitely in the shape of his life.

"I've never lost to him (Soderling) but I was there during other Roland Garros finals and I never won."

In grand slam finals, Federer has a 2-5 win-loss record against Nadal and 11-0 against all other opponents. Three of those defeats to Nadal were in the last three Paris finals.

For years, many grand slam champions have said that you need a lot of talent to win a major but sometimes also a little bit of luck. While the oodles of talent that runs through Federer's veins helped him to capture 13 grand slam titles at Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows and Melbourne Park, it was never enough in the heartland of claycourt tennis.

If there was ever a place he needed some divine intervention, it was in Paris and it fell his way last Sunday when Soderling ended Nadal's four-year reign at Roland Garros.

Instead of galvanizing Federer, it has only worked towards piling on the pressure on the Swiss master and he openly admitted that he had to endure the most nerve-jangling week of his career.

That journey has included a heart-stopping five-set win over Germany's Tommy Haas, a thrilling victory over Frenchman Gael Monfils and a roller-coaster ride with Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who eventually went down in five sets.

Federer knows the stakes could not get much higher than the records that are on the line on Sunday.

"I'm excited, because I know that these moments will not happen every single day," Federer added. "I'll try and do is focus on the match. I'll do my best, play my best tennis on clay, and I hope that I can win the cup.

"Clearly I'm the favorite but this doesn't mean much. Such a final with pressure on both sides. He doesn't know what a grand slam final is ... but he's got nothing to lose. This is a very open match.

"I totally respect what he's done so far. What he's done is that he's played great matches. It's an incredible tournament he's had so far. I'm really happy for him that he's managed to come through, to stand out."

However, he added: "I hope I'm going to stop him now."

While Federer will contest the 19th major final of his glittering career, Soderling will experience his first.

The 23rd seed has no misconceptions about just how much of an underdog he is for today's match, but in case anyone had forgotten, he said: "I think Nadal was favorite against me, as well, so ..."


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