Roger Federer faced Robin Soderling in the 2009 French Open final.
After he won the Australian Open in 2009, it was widely assumed that Rafael Nadal was already half-way to a calendar-year Grand Slam with the French Open sure to go in favor of the four-time defending champion.
Entering Paris as the top seed, the Spaniard breezed through his first three matches. However, in the fourth, he was upended by the 23rd seed Robin Soderling in one of the tournament’s greatest upsets. Building upon that victory instead of suffering a letdown, the Swede battled on to reach his first Grand Slam final.
In the championship match, he’d face Roger Federer, the second seed who advanced to the final for the fourth straight year. Immediately taking on the role of favorite after Nadal’s loss, the Swiss’ road to the title bout was anything but smooth as he battled back from being down two sets to love against Tommy Haas in the fourth round and a two-to-one-set deficit against Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals.
Over the course of the tournament, Soderling had shown a level of determination that matched his talent, which hadn’t been the case throughout his career. However, he was facing one of his greatest personal roadblocks in the form of Federer, who had won all nine of their previous matches, including their most recent one in Madrid shortly before the start of this tournament.
All of the pressure, though, was on Federer as the world No. 2 was looking at his best opportunity to date to complete the career Grand Slam, having dropped the three previous Roland Garros finals to Nadal. Three sets away from immortality, Federer raced through the opener 6-1.
In the second set, the two stayed on fairly even ground, overcoming an on-court distraction, as they worked their way to a tiebreaker. Within the mini-frame, Federer reasserted his dominance, taking it 7-1 to go up two sets to love. Playing with an increasing level of confidence, Federer secured an early break to put himself ahead and served for the match at 5-4. Battling through his nerves, the Swiss clinched the only Slam missing from his collection and tied Pete Sampras as the all-time men’s title leader with 14 majors.
After the dominance of Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander in the 1970s and ‘80s, respectively, at the French Open, this marked the second decade in a row Sweden didn’t produce a French Open winner.
Federer became the third man during the Open Era to complete the career Grand Slam, after Rod Laver and Andre Agassi. Laver won the calendar-year Grand Slam in 1969 and 30 years later, Agassi won his fourth different major in Paris.
The win over Soderling marked the eighth time in Federer’s Grand Slam title-winning matches that he took the contest in straight sets.