On this day ten years ago, Roger Federer played his fourth consecutive Roland Garros final, the first without his nemesis Rafael Nadal on the other side of the net! Nadal, who beat Roger in 2005 semi-final and the final of the next three editions of Roland Garros, lost to Robin Soderling in the fourth round in what has been one of the biggest surprises in the sport in the 21st century.
The road was now open for Roger to finally go all the way in Paris and join some of the greatest tennis names on the exclusive list. Namely, Roger defeated Robin in the final 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 55 minutes to become only the sixth player in tennis history with all four Grand Slams by his name after Fred Perry, Don Budge, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Andre Agassi who did that ten years before him.
Also, this was the 14th Grand Slam title for the 28-year-old Swiss, equaling the record of Pete Sampras whom he would pass a few weeks later at Wimbledon. It wasn't an easy fortnight for Roger by any means, losing six sets before the title match and being two sets to love down against Tommy Haas in the fourth round, barely escaping a straight sets defeat.
Still, Federer did his best to overpower all the rivals and get his hands on that elusive trophy that had been running away from his for so many years. Two weeks before Roland Garros, Federer won the title in Madrid, his first of the season, boosting the confidence ahead of the second Grand Slam of the year, beating Nadal in the final for the first time since Masters Cup 2007.
When Nadal crashed out from the tournament, all eyes were set on Roger and he managed to pass all the obstacles and to receive the trophy from none other than Andre Agassi, the last man who achieved a Career Grand Slam before him!
The Swiss star opened his campaign with a solid 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win over Alberto Martin despite a slow start and he had to stay on the court for almost three and a half hours in a 7-6, 5-7, 7-6, 6-2 triumph over Jose "Chucho" Acasuso.
Roger claimed the opening set tie break 10-8 after saving four set points, having to save one in the third set as well after trailing 5-1 and so close to falling two sets to one down. In set number four, Acasuso had nothing more left in the tank and Federer sailed through to the last 32 where he faced Paul-Henri Mathieu.
The Swiss lost the opening set but raised his level after that to notch a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win in two hours and 46 minutes. The Frenchman won the opening set with one break in game seven and he was unable to stay on the same course in the rest of the match, losing serve five times from 16 chances Roger created.
The fourth round brought an ultimate challenge, with Tommy Haas moving two sets to love up against his good friend, coming to the verge of a stunning victory before Federer prevailed 6-7(4), 5-7, 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 in three hours and seven minutes.
A very strange situation occurred in the first set, Federer won all 24 points in his six service games, only to drop the tie break 7-4, wasting the lead in the second set too and sending Tommy closer to the finish line. In the eighth game of the third set, Tommy had a break point and stood five points away from a straight sets victory before Roger saved it with a majestic forehand winner that turned the things around for the entire encounter, giving him a lot of confidence.
From that point, Roger claimed nine games in a row and never looked back, bringing the match home without a further struggle and spending too much time on the court. The quarter-final offered an easier day at the office, with Federer taking down the home favorite Gael Monfils 7-6, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and ten minutes.
The first set proved to be essential, Gael fought like a lion but wasted three break points and a set point in the tie break, never finding the same form again and pushing Roger into the semi-final where he had to dig deep once again to reach the title match.
After three hours and 29 minutes, Roger repelled a stern test from Juan Martin del Potro in a 3-6, 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 triumph that propelled him into the fourth consecutive Roland Garros final. Performing in his first Grand Slam semis, Juan Martin threw everything he had on Roger, playing attacking and aggressive tennis that almost brought him the win (he was two points away from taking the second set).
Federer couldn't do much on the return in the first two and a half hours, breaking for the first time in the fourth game of the fourth set to open up a 3-1 gap and that was the crucial moment that gave him the necessary boost, rattling off seven games in a row and moving 2-0 up in the decider.
That was all he needed to seal the deal, having more strength than his rival and also being a lot more experienced, moving closer to the first Roland Garros crown. In the title match, Roger improved his score over Robin Soderling to 10-0, beating the Swede 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 55 minutes for one of the most important wins in a career and tennis history in general.
Federer blasted 16 aces and his first serve worked like a charm, allowing him free points or a good position for a groundstroke attack, leaving Robin with no answer. Soderling dropped his serve four times and couldn't spoil Roger's party despite a valiant effort in set number two.
The Swiss lost only 17 points on serve, fending off both break points he faced to mount the pressure on the other side of the net, something that the first-time Grand Slam finalist could have never endured. Federer had twice as many winners than his opponent, dominating in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to forge the triumphs and join tennis immortals, determined to left his everything on the court to lift that trophy.
Roger grabbed the opening set in no time at all, barely losing a point on serve and scoring breaks in games one, three and seven for the best possible start and a massive boost ahead of the rest of the encounter where he had to work harder to stay in front.
The Swede fought well in set number two, staying away from break points and reaching the tie break that Federer won 7-1, playing on a higher level in the crucial moments to move closer to the finish line and a big celebration.
Soderling got broken in the first game of the third set and that proved to be the pivotal moment, wasting break chances in games four and ten to propel Roger over the finish line.