Sweden has retained its place in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group after a straight sets victory for Robin Soderling over Simone Bolelli in Lidkoping.
The Italians threw the Swedes a curve ball, but it came back straight as a die and with interest off the racket of Soderling. In a desperate attempt to keep the tie alive until the final rubber, Corrado Barazzutti, the Italy captain, chose Bolelli, his No.3 singles player, instead of Potito Starace, his No.1, to face the powerful Swede, but it made no difference to the outcome, Soderling winning 63 63 63 to preserve Sweden’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group status for another year.
Bolelli had beaten Soderling in their last meeting last year – just as Starace had done – but the fast Plexipave surface of the Sparbanken Lidkoping Arena is not the clammy clay of Monte Carlo and the world No.5 ripped home his service winners in even greater number than he had against Fabio Fognini on Friday. Bolelli may have lasted 25 minutes longer than the man from San Remo, but it just meant that five more aces flew past his ears than those of Fognini – 23 in all.
"A different player"
“A different surface and, I think, a different player now,” remarked Bolelli. “He was strong also when I played him, but now he’s five in the world, he’s won many important matches, he’s improved a lot. His serve was almost impossible to play today.”
The disappointment of losing the doubles from two sets to love up the previous day had left the Italian team somewhat deflated. So much so that it was one of the reasons that Starace was replaced – that and tiredness after playing twice in two days and the fact that Bolelli enjoys playing indoors. A victory in the doubles would have meant this rubber was of little consequence in the wider scheme of things, but instead Soderling was playing for outright victory and he clearly meant business from the very start.
Clinched with an ace
In the fifth game of the opening set he served a full house of aces to take a 4-1 lead, having broken Bolelli in the previous game, and soon after the set was in the bag. In game four of the second set Bolelli made the mistake of going up 15-30 on Soderling’s serve. The Swede’s furious response was to thunder down aces 12, 13 and 14. His dander up, he broke Bolelli in the next game after setting up the break point by winning the longest rally of the match.
In the 17th game of the match Bolelli forced his first break points, but they led nowhere. Again Soderling’s response was emphatic, converting the first of three set points on Bolelli’s serve in the next game to take the set. The third set followed suit and, naturally, match point was clinched with an ace.
In the dead rubber, Fognini’s 61 63 victory in what is likely to have been Andreas Vinciguerra’s final Davis Cup match for Sweden only made Italy dwell further on what might have been.