Paris, 15 November 2010 | AFP
Sweden’s Robin Soderling secured his first ever Masters title with a 6-1 7-6(1) defeat of home favourite Gael Monfils in the ATP Paris Masters final on Sunday.
Soderling, a two-time French Open finalist, claimed his sixth career title to inflict a second consecutive Bercy final defeat upon 12th seed Monfils, who was beaten by Novak Djokovic in straight sets in last year’s decider.
Victory also made Soderling the first man from his country to win a Masters tournament since Thomas Enqvist’s success in Cincinnati in 2000.
Soderling, 26, had enjoyed an incredible week in Paris, notably saving three match points in an epic semifinal against unseeded Frenchman Michael Llodra on Saturday.
Gilles Simon, Stanislas Wawrinka and Andy Roddick were Soderling’s other victims and he will on Monday replace Andy Murray as the world No.4 – his highest ever ranking.
Soderling declared himself “very happy” to have won but also had words of praise for his opponent.
“I know it’s difficult to lose two finals in a row in this city but Monfils played incredible tennis this week,” said Soderling, who was beaten in the Roland Garros final on the other side of Paris in 2009 and 2010.
“He beat Roger [Federer] yesterday and I also know how difficult that is.”
Monfils had also experienced an unforgettable week in eastern Paris, having saved two match points in the third round against Fernando Verdasco and five against top seed Federer in a roller-coaster semifinal on Saturday.
The Frenchman appeared fatigued by his efforts to overcome Federer, however, and was badly off the pace in a one-sided first set, with Soderling’s powerful serve causing him particular problems.
Soderling won 6-3 6-2 when the pair met in Valencia last week and although his service was less reliable in the second set, the Swede continued to pepper his opponent with precise groundstrokes from the back of the court.
Monfils never managed to shake Soderling out of his rhythm and went down meekly in the tie-break, as the Swede clinched a straightforward victory with a passing volley at the net before dropping to the ground in ecstasy.
“I’ve had a week full of emotions,” said Monfils, who will lead the French team that takes on Serbia in the Davis Cup final in Belgrade on December 3-5.
“I’ve learnt a lot, I’ve gone to the extent of my limits and I’m very, very disappointed to have got so close again and to have lost the final so easily.
“But third time lucky, I hope to be in the final again next year.”