Monday February 20th, 2012

Two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling hasn't played in a tournament since last July. (EPA)

Before Novak Djokovic emerged to spoil Rafael Nadal's and Roger Federer's Grand Slam campaigns, there was Robin Soderling. The big-hitting Swede has the distinction of ending two of the most impressive streaks in tennis. He snapped Nadal's 31-match winning streak at the French Open in 2009 and is still the only man to beat the Spaniard there. Soderling followed up that upset the next year by defeating Federer in the quarterfinals, breaking the 16-time Grand Slam champion's run of 24 consecutive major semifinals.

The last time we saw Soderling on a court was last July, when he didn't drop a set and dismissed Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer en route to winning his home tournament in Bastad, Sweden. But Soderling was diagnosed with mononucleosis before the U.S. Open and hasn't played since.

Now, in an interview with Sweden's Svenska Dagbladet, the 27-year-old Soderling says he's still battling the illness and he's unsure when he'll return.

"I try not to worry because it does not make things better, maybe it makes things worse," Soderling said. "But I realize that anything can happen."

He told the newspaper that the most amount of on-court training he's been able to do is 30 minutes and that his level of fatigue is still difficult to predict or manage. The former world No. 4 and two-time French Open finalist said that sometimes he jogs 20 minutes without a problem and other times he's so tired that he doesn't get off the couch.

In the meantime, Soderling is reading, doing puzzles and spending time with his girlfriend, Jenny, and their new puppy, Sixten. "It's a cool name," Soderling said. Soderling said he watched the Australian Open final and some Davis Cup but isn't keeping track regularly of ATP Tour developments. If Soderling isn't able to recover, it will be a tough end for a player who was in his prime. As much as fans and pundits crave dominance, it's no fun without a handful of players who are capable of surprising the top four. Soderling was one of those guys who relished the chance to pull off the upset. Without him, the men's game is missing that little something extra in the earlier rounds. Here's hoping he's able to find his way back.

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