|ESPN.com: ESPNTennis||[Print without images]|
Editor's note: Beginning May 10, Ravi Ubha unveils the top 10 French Open questions. Check back each weekday until May 21 as we count down to No. 1.
9. Can the big Swede cause another stir?
Robin Soderling orchestrated one of the biggest upsets in French Open history last year, ending Rafa's reign in Paris. It was highly impressive, even if the Spaniard was struggling with family issues and those problematic knees.
And here we thought Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Juan Martin del Potro and Nikolay Davydenko were the most likely candidates to dethrone the King of Clay at Roland Garros.
Soderling will be under immense pressure in Paris, unlike the pressure he's faced since the 2009 tournament. He has a ton of points to defend, and he'll probably be asked about the Nadal match after each of his encounters. Oh, us journalists.
He can handle it. Soderling, an underachiever prior to last season, has never had an inferiority complex facing the elite. Credit coach Magnus Norman for turning the 25-year-old's career around. Playing on clay allows Soderling to set up nicely, unloading with the huge forehand. (Perhaps an elbow problem affected Soderling in Melbourne more than first thought.)
Further, look at the state of the men's game heading into the French Open. Davydenko and del Potro are injured, Djokovic isn't a serious contender (imagine what the crowd in Paris would do if he quit due to allergies) and neither is Andy Murray. Federer is Federer, and he always picks up his game when it really counts, so let's not put too much stock into Rome and Estoril.
But Soderling is getting closer to beating the Swiss, too (lopsided French Open final to three tight sets at Wimbledon to nearly five sets at the U.S. Open to conquering Federer at an exhibition in January).
If healthy -- he bailed from Monte Carlo with a knee injury -- Soderling figures to be among the batch of second favorites (behind Nadal) with Federer and possibly Fernando Verdasco.