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BNP Paribas Masters ATP
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By Alberto Amalfi

(November 14, 2010) This time there was no extraordinary escape act for
Gael Monfils . Smacking stinging shots that shackled Monfils to the baseline, a fully focused Robin Soderling shattered French hopes for a hometown champion in blowing Monfils away, 6-1, 7-6(1) in today's Paris final to capture his first career Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Masters.

"It feels great. I don't have a very good record in finals, and especially here in Paris," Soderling said. "I lost two finals at Roland Garros. Of course it's great to reach the final in a Grand Slam  and also in a Masters 1000, but I think a final is that one match you really want to win. I'm really happy that I played well today, and now I'm here winning the title. When I won that last point, I just felt so happy and I felt so relieved. I really wanted to win this match so much."

It was fitting the two-time French Open finalist made his Masters 1000 breakthrough in Paris, where he's made his mark on the red clay of Roland Garros in recent years.

"Tennis is a very mental sport, because everybody can play, everybody is so good. So it's the mental thing that's going to decide a lot of matches," Soderling said. "I worked a lot on that, and I improved that, so I think I'm a better player now compared to a couple years ago."

The12th-seeded Monfils played one of the most magnificent matches of his career in fighting off five match points
in the final game to topple top-seeded Swiss Roger Federer, 7-6(7), 6-7(1), 7-6(4) on Saturday and reach his second consecutive BNP Paribas Masters final before an exuberant home crowd in Paris.  Monfils could not summon the same energy and shot-making brilliance against Soderling.

"I'm in a learning process. Every time I get to a final like this something goes wrong, and this time it was the preparation," Monfils said. "I had to rush too much. And also, at one stage in the match I tried to change my plan. I should maybe not have done that and keep with simple things. But I like all this, because it shows that when I will finally win my first [Masters 1000] final, it means I did everything right."

The fourth-seeded Swede swatted nine aces, won 30 of 34 first-serve points and did not drop serve in rolling to a 77-minute win.

It was Soderling's second straight win over a French opponent. Soderling
saved three match points to subdue 34th-ranked Frenchman Michael Llodra, 6-7(0), 7-5, 7-6(6) in Saturday's semifinals. Knowing he would face both Monfils and more than 14,000 French fans urging on their man, Soderling said he was tight before the match.

"I was extremely nervous before this match. I didn't sleep much at all last night," Soderling said. "I really wanted to do well today, and I'm really happy the way I started the match. I came out playing really well. Then after the first set it was a little bit easier for me, even though he started to play a little bit better.  I was a bit more relaxed and I was going for my shots. At the end I think I played a really good tie break. I'm really happy that I played my best tennis when it really matters."

Blistering the ball from the outset, Soderling controlled the center of the court and kept the flexible Frenchman moving side-to-side in raising his record to 3-0 lifetime vs. Monfils. Soderling has not surrendered a set in three matches against Monfils.

Soderling has played some of his most electrifying tennis in the City of Light in snapping Rafael Nadal's 31-match French Open winning streak with a shocking Roland Garros fourth-round upset in 2009. In June, Soderling snapped Roger Federer's record streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances with a French Open quarterfinal conquest.


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