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Soderling Succeeds In Title Defence

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Robin Soderling© Henk KosterRobin Soderling won his eighth ATP World Tour title.

World No. 4 Robin Soderling defended an ATP World Tour title for the first time in his career Sunday as he fought past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 in the final of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam.

The Swede, who defeated Mikhail Youzhny in last year’s final and also finished runner-up in 2008 (l. to Llodra), improved to a 14-2 event record. As winner of the first ATP World Tour 500 tennis tournament of the year, he earned 500 South African Airways 2011 ATP Ranking points and €279,500 in prize money.

Soderling won two ATP World Tour titles in the same year for the first time in 2010, also claiming his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title in Paris-Bercy, and has already matched that feat just six weeks into the 2011 season. He opened his campaign with victory at the Brisbane International (d. Roddick), before going on to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open (l. to Dolgopolov).

“I’ve had two wins and one final, it’s very good, I like it here a lot," said Soderling. "It suits my game and when you come to a place where you’ve played well before it brings out good feelings. Of course it’s tough trying to defend the title, it adds some extra pressure, but I felt good and had only positive feelings.

"I’ve had a very good start to this season. I’ve already won two titles and only lost one match in three tournaments."

Watch: Soderling Interview | Tsonga Interview

The 26-year-old Soderling has now amassed eight ATP World Tour titles from 18 tour-level finals, with six of those trophies coming indoors. It took some effort from the Swede to cross the line this week, though. He saved one match point to end a three-match losing streak against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round and also dispatched World No. 10 Youzhny in a repeat of the 2010 final on Friday.

After a slow start, the eighth-seeded Tsonga also provided a stern test for top seed Soderling. The Frenchman struggled on serve in the first set, only winning 46 per cent of points behind his first serve, and despite rallying from a 0-3 deficit, he was broken again in the eighth game as Soderling clinched the opener.

Much improved serving from Tsonga proved to be the difference in the second set and his decision to attack Soderling in the sixth game paid dividends as he broke through to lead 4-2 before going on to level the match, having won 16 of 17 points behind his first serve.

Both players impressed on serve at the beginning of the third set, but it was Soderling who proved to have the edge when it mattered. The Swede benefitted from successive ground stroke errors from Tsonga to break serve in the eighth game before clinching victory after 83 minutes with his 12th ace.

“I had many tough matches this week," said Soderling. "I had to fight a lot for every match. I was lucky, I had the margins on my side. I think to win tournaments like this, you need to of course play well, but you need a little bit of luck as well.”

Tsonga dropped to a 0-4 record against Soderling, but felt he is going in the right direction. "Today I played better than in other matches against him," said the Frenchman. "I played a good match today. It was difficult of course because he played unbelievable, he didn’t miss many things. I had to play my best tennis to win some games and break him, so it was difficult. At the end he just played better than me."

World No. 18 Tsonga was bidding to end a 15-month title drought, with his last trophy – and last final appearance - coming in Tokyo in October 2009. The Frenchman lost a tour-level final for only the second time (5-2 record), having also finished runner-up in the 2008 Australian Open final (l. to Djokovic).

Tsonga’s results at the beginning of the 2011 ATP World Tour season have marked a welcome return to form for the 25 year old, who was sidelined for much of the second part of last season with a left knee injury. He now will turn his attentions to the Open 13 next week in Marseille, where he will join top seed Soderling. 

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