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Soderling secures final spot

ROBIN Soderling extended his improbable run to the French Open final by beating Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 yesterday.

Soderling let a big lead slip away when he lost his serve in the final game of the third and fourth sets. The 23rd-seeded Swede fell behind 3-love and 4-1 in the final set, but down the stretch came up with the kind of shotmaking that helped him upset four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, and he swept the last five games.

On Sunday, Soderling will play the winner of the second semifinal between No. 2 Roger Federer and No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro.

"I have very far to go," said Soderling, the first Swede to reach the French Open final since Magnus Norman in 2000.

Federer is trying to complete a career grand slam and win his 14th major title, which would tie Pete Sampras' record. Federer has been beaten at the French Open each of the past four years by Nadal, the four-time defending champion who lost to Soderling in the fourth round.

Soderling never advanced beyond the third round in his previous 21 major tournaments, and he has never won a clay-court title. The victory over Gonzalez was only Soderling's fourth in a five-set match.

The 3?-hour semifinal had lots of drama, and a little controversy.

Gonzalez challenged a call late in the fourth set, contending a shot by Soderling had landed wide, and when the umpire denied his appeal, Gonzalez sat on the disputed mark in the clay to smooth it out.

Gonzalez won the game anyway but played the rest of the match with dirt caked on his shorts.

The quality of play was high throughout. Soderling had 74 winners, including 16 aces, and Gonzalez totaled 59 winners, including 22 aces.

On Thursday, Liezel Huber and Bob Bryan of the United States beat Vania King of the United States and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 5-7, 7-6 (5), 10-7 to win the French Open mixed doubles championship.

The title is Bryan's second consecutive in mixed doubles at the French Open and his sixth grand slam mixed doubles title overall - each with a different partner.

"It's gotten better and better each time," he said.

Bryan also has won seven men's doubles major championships with twin brother Mike. They lost in the semifinals at Roland Garros earlier on Thursday to Wesley Moodie of South Africa and Dick Norman of Belgium.

"This was a way for me to feel good, you know, to leave here with a win, leave here with a trophy, big title and a grand slam," Bryan said.


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