Roger Federer was working his way towards being the greatest tennis player of all-time. Despite winning anything and everything that came before him, a title at Roland Garros always eluded him. That title also prevented him from completing a career slam, an honour that only five players managed to achieve till then. The list boasted of illustrious players like Fred Perry and Don Budge (Not in the open era), Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and Andre Agassi.
The arrival of the ‘invincible on clay’ Rafael Nadal further thwarted his hopes. His attempts at dethroning Nadal only resulted in defeat and sometimes even humiliation.
A ray of light knocked at his doorstep when Robin Soderling knocked Nadal out in the fourth round of the 2009 edition at Roland Garros. Fittingly, it was Soderling who was up against the Swiss ace in the final on a rainy afternoon in Paris. Both players had exhaustive, five-setter semi-final clashes against Fernando Gonzalez and Juan Martin Del Potro respectively.
Federer, however, showed no signs of fatigue as he romped away with the first set inside 30 minutes 6-1. The title was now within sight but the Swede was not ready to go down without a fight.
The second set saw Soderling hold on to his serve more often but failed to break his opponent’s serve. Both players monotonously held onto their service games till 6-5. Soderling had two game points to stretch the game into a tie-breaker. A fantastic forehand and Backhand from the Swiss saved both the points but Soderling held on. The tie-breaker saw Federer fire ace after ace and all Soderling could do was afford a wry smile. The second set was pocketed 7-6. The title was just a set away.
Federer had an early break of serve in the third set and that was enough for him to race away to win the only trophy that he didn’t have in his cabinet. Soderling had his moments, resembling to those during his clash with Nadal, but they were too few and far in between. A Soderling forehand that smashed into the net saw Federer break down, similarly to the way he did when he won Wimbledon for the first time in 2003. A fairly lopsided final saw Federer conquering a dream not many have managed to achieve. The career slam was only achieved by Nadal (2010) and Djokovic (2016) after his heroics at Roland Garros. Roger Federer dreamt, Roger Federer won, Roger Federer conquered.