Tramlines: Soderling's strictly second tier

Mon, 15 Nov 16:29:00 2010

When it comes to reflecting on the merits of different tennis players at any given time a number of people seem to stick on their hyperbole hats and jump to extremes.

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Thus Roger Federer regularly bounces from being completely washed up to back to his best, while Andy Murray hovers from future multiple Grand Slam champion to a mummy's boy who is destined to live a Henman-esque Slam-less existence.

Invariably the truth lies somewhere in between. Tennis players are never as good, or as bad, as the people who passionately praise or grumble about their talents say they are.

With all that in mind, Tramlines would like to dispassionately congratulate Robin Soderling on winning his first Masters title in Paris last week and moving up to a career high ranking of fourth in the world.

However, it is just silly talk to suggest that this will precipitate an avalanche of further Masters titles and Slams from the Swede.

Soderling is not suddenly going to beat up on the big boys on a regular basis. He is what he is: an excellent, consistent, second-tier slugger in the fashion of Nikolay Davydenko, David Nalbandian, Ivan Ljubicic and Tommy Haas.

All four of those players reached the top three in the world (Haas was as high as two at one stage) without ever residing at the same elite level of Federer, Rafael Nadal and to a lesser extent Novak Djokovic and dare we even say it... Murray.

Let's stick to that comparison with Murray for a moment. Soderling has reached as many Grand Slam finals (two) as Murray and now stands above him in the rankings. He even beat the Scot quite emphatically in Indian Wells this season - the first meeting between the two in four years.

However, does anybody genuinely believe that the Swede is the better player? A more consistent player, maybe, but certainly not a better one.

You just have to look at their respective records against the current top three in the world to get a sense of things.

Soderling's combined record against the 'big three' stands at 4-24, while Murray has a 15-17 record.

Of course Murray has plenty of his own problems - lack of attacking intent, temperamental issues, the burden of a ruthless national media, lack of consistency etc - but he can, and has, reached a world class standard in the past that suggests he has Slams in him.

Soderling, though, is simply an excellent pro who still lacks that X-factor that suggests he can reach the very highest level.

Just look at who he beat to win in Paris: Gael Monfils, Michael Llodra, Andy Roddick, Stanislas Wawrinka and Gilles Simon.

A collection of has-beens and wannabes - all players you would expect Soderling to beat when he is playing at his best.

And this is what we can expect to see from the Swede for the rest of his career. He will usually beat the players he is supposed to beat and lose to the ones he is expected to fall to.

He's no Superhero - he's Robin, not Batman.

Tramlines predicts he will finish his career without a Slam - but with about $15 million in career prize money.

Poor him, eh?

Watch highlights from the Paris Masters final below

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RANKINGS

As already stated, Soderling's victory in France means he leapfrogs Murray into fourth spot in the world. Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Roddick also clinched their places at the ATP Tour Finals in London after Fernando Verdasco lost to Monfils in the third round. Llodra's run to the semi-finals sees him jump to 23rd in the world and he is now just one place off Davydenko who has dropped another 11 places to 22nd. The women's season has finished so no change there.

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TWEETS OF THE WEEK

Before we get to this section, we are pleased to announce that Tramlines is now on Twitter... and we promise to get tweeting as soon as possible. So start following us now: https://twitter.com/TramlinesTennis

Ok... shamless plug over... back to work.

Winner: "Me and @CaroWozniacki r going to play an exhibition match in Minsk on the 19th of November. I can't thank her enough for coming:). We doing it for charity and donating all of the money to a kids' hospital. I'm super excited! Tickets are out since yesterday. Come on!" - Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki's good deed deserves a plug.

Runner-up: "Favourite thing about Monday? I'm more sober than on Sunday." Ivo Karlovic is our kind of athlete. Although with a serve like his, who needs to run?

Wooden Spoon: "Is the Hayemaker gonna drop some bombs on Audley tonight? I think there could be an upset.....not sure why but I gotta feeling!" - Next time Jamie Murray has a 'feeling' expect the opposite to happen.

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A-BOG v A-BOG

Oh British A-Bog - you fill our hearts with wonderment then dash our hopes once more. After his stunning return from injury last week, Alex Bogdanovic crashed in the first round of a Challenger in Aachen. Alex Bogomolov Jr only won one match at his Challenger in Knoxville but it is enough for him to take the point.

Standings: A-Bog (US) 19-12 A-Bog (GB)

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THIS WEEK

Nothing on this week, but it will give everyone a free week to hype up the Tour Finals. If you are in desperate need of a tennis fix the latest round of the British Tour takes place in Nottingham.

Eurosport

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