It is very exciting and a bit nerve-racking

Doubles showcase may be many different variables. It is hard to imagine a better double showcase double than that in a week that is playing at Stockholm Waterfront. More than five and a half years after his last professional game, the two-time Grand Slam finalist Robin Söderling is now back on the court.

 

It's not just us who know a feel the sensation of having butterflies in their stomach for his return.  

- Even I think it’s obviously very exciting and a bit nerve-racking for the first time in several years going to be going back onto the court before hopefully packed stands, says Robin and continues:

- The nerve like playing a real game on the tour might not be quite the same but my absolute goal is primarily to enjoy the experience and try to show some shots that people can relate to and recognize me.

In the match against Jonas Bjorkman and Mark Philippoussis, Robin will have Thomas Enqvist at his side.

- I do not feel any great pressure and I've also lucky to be able to lean against Thomas who has been active on the Champions Tour for quite a few years now. I have prepared myself by practicing a few more hours a week and added a bit more time on the serve and return.

So it has almost been six years since Robin played his last match on the ATP tour. His match in the SkiStar Swedish Open was as incredible as unforgettable. It had been a perfect final vignette of a great career - though he himself had made the decision that it was time to retire.

But as mononucleosis and subsequent difficult disease symptoms deprived him of that opportunity. His success in Båstad with time also became somewhat tainted and it was only some years later that it became clear that we would never again see him at the large tournaments again.  

What other great deeds he had could accomplish there? The question will always be unanswered and we can only speculate.

We should remember that it was Robin and not Andy Murray during a period that represented the biggest threat to Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

I think that Söderling would have had his best season ahead of him and hade he remained at the top today. It is grounded in his own development as the development of the sport.

  • 2008 he went into Rankin's top-20.
  • In 2009, he reached the French championship in his first Grand Slam final and reached the top-10 ranking.
  • 2010 he defended the final scene at Roland Garros, took the Master title in Paris and climbed to fourth place.
  • 2011 he took three titles in his first four tournaments, reached the quarter final in Paris and two Master tournaments and his won his career’s tenth and final title - yet no more than just over half the season was over.

At his farewell in Bastad he had not yet turned 27 years, a true youth in a sport where the average age of the top-10 player is is almost 30 years We also see a number of top players who maintains themselves at the highest level after passing the prime age of 30.

Are you thinking along such lines, or have you just accepted that it was as it was?

Both, and I will be honest to say. I have accepted it and learned to live with it. I have learned that health is more important than anything else and I have had the good fortune to experience a new phase of life with two children gives me an indescribable energy and dimension of life, says Robin continues:

While it is impossible to sometimes think about my career, considering what you say, that it is largely the same players that dominate the tour when I played. There are also a couple of Grand Slam winners in recent years that I during the last years of my career, that I maybe even was better than and they are approximately my age. I have a split feelings, but I must also be grateful that my career was still relatively long on the tour and put it in perspective. There are many with my potential that have had to stop even earlier because of injuries.

In Paris in 2009 he became the first player to defeat Rafael Nadal in 5 sets on clay and the following year he beat out in rain-soaked conditions at Roland Garros Federer who could not resist the Swede's bombardment and perhaps before or since then has he been forced on the defensive as much as then.

What are you most proud of in his career - two Grand Slam finals, fourth place in the ranking, the Paris-victory against Nadal, the Paris-victory against Federer or something else?

- I always think this issue is so difficult. Obviously I'm proud of many of the things you mention but the most proud I am that I did test my motivation and love for tennis and that I managed to become a tennis pro that I dreamed about as a kid.

- If I am to answer any of your examples, I'm very proud that I managed to repeat my final of the French Open and to have proved that I could win against some of the best-ever tennis players in major tournaments.

After his career, Robin has a new role and is now successful businessman. RS Tennis includes balls, grips and strings have taken the market by storm.

How has the challenge in the business world been compared to that on the tour?

- In many ways there are similarities, even more than I thought. Just this characteristic to work hard, understand that there are no shortcuts, and to take the job seriously at all levels. Its definetily the same drive and resonance that I had with my tennis.

- In the same way, it is about to surround yourself with a team of talented and dedicated people, just like with the team players have around them and work with tennis players.

Just like during his pro career Söderling is extremely accurate. Nothing is left to chance.

- It's gone extremely quick for us and we have now established the RS brand in nearly 50 markets, which is amazing. Our concept is that I am responsible for ensuring that the products we develop are of the highest quality. It connected with hard work and to listen and to get help from the people around us who have made similar trips in the past feels like a good combination.

- In Sweden, we take for granted that are surrounded by good and innovative design, but in many countries, our classy image for our products has had a tremendous impact and it makes you also feel proud to be Swedish and understands how far ahead we are in Sweden and Scandinavia,in current form and design

The doubles showecase on March 8 will hopefully not both the first and the last we see of Söderling at Kings of Tennis and the Champions Tour.

- It would obviously be an honor if competitions on the Champions Tour would like me to be part of their tournmants. It is fun and it will also be an added element of joy in a few years when several of my generation come up in age and you get the chance to reunite with many former friends that I saw each week, year in and year out, says 32-year-old.

The question is most how long he must wait for Federer, 35, Nadal, 30 years, Wawrinka, 31, and 29-year-old "youngsters" Djokovic and Murray all of which are said to have a few more very successful seasons ahead of him on the ATP tour.

Did you get the question to be Davis Cup captain? If yes, please develop your thoughts on why you did not want.

- Haha - no, I did not. I think the union did a splendid choice with Johan Hedsberg that have a natural connection to what we hope is the next generation of DC players. He also has a very strong network around him

Are you ready in the future become more involved in the Swedish tennis than what you already through the RS?

- I'm already in a smaller scale. I am included as a mentor to Lidingo Tennis Academy which focuses on the breadth of tennis and have a very good activity in which the children's happines, development and wellbeing are core values. These are questions that I burn much for.

- It is not impossible that I engage in more Swedish tennis in the future, but right now the RS takes a lot of time and presently it seems not to be decreasing in size anytime soon, said Robin Söderling.

He can expect a very warm welcome in Kings of Tennis. Not least because the audience finally gets the opportunity to give the Swedish tennis’ last superstar magnificent tribute he should have received in Bastad 2011 - if we had known that his defeat by world’s 6th seeded player, David Ferrer was the last we would see of Robin Soderling as professionals.

 

Jonas Arnesen, tennis reporter

Kings of tennis

8-10 Mars 2017