Soderling gears up for final drive to tennis Tour Finals
STOCKHOLM: Roland Garros finalist Robin Soderling will have to wait until Wednesday to start this week's campaign for a place in the ATP year-end event, with a match against qualifying lucky loser Giovanni Lapentti his first task at the Stockholm Open.
Lapentti, 224th-ranked younger brother of Ecuadornian pro Nicolas Lapentti, will be playing at the ATP level for only the second time this season.
After flying into the Swedish capital from the Shanghai Masters at the weekend, Soderling, provisional number nine in the eight-man chase for the World Tour Finals starting on November 22 has been re-acquainting himself with the temple of Swedish tennis, the Kungligahallen.
Soderling has established himself as a top player since his French Open breakthrough, where he beat Rafael Nadal in the fourth-round to end his four year reign, then lost the final to Roger Federer.
The Swede continued to thrust himself into year-end contention for one of three remaining spots in the eight-man field with a Wimbledon fourth round defeat by Federer and a New York quarter-final, where he was beaten by the Swiss again.
In the race to London's final, Soderling stands behind Spain's Fernando Verdasco, who is looking at property in Las Vegas and training for the next fortnight with Gil Reyes, former fitness guru of Andre Agassi.
Even a Stockholm victory on Sunday would not be enough to put Soderling ahead of the inactive Verdasco, though it will close the points gap between the pair.
"I know that if I play well, I have a chance, but this tournament won't decide who's going to play in London," said the Swede. "There's still a lot of tennis to be played this year.
"There's a couple of big tournaments coming up (one is the Paris Masters to end the regular season). I have to keep on doing well the rest of the year."
Fellow Swede Joachim Johansson showed the winning way with 21 aces in a 7-5, 6-2 defeat of Australian Peter Luczak.
Wild card Johansson, troubled for years by shoulder problems and often flirting with retirement, was making only his second ATP appearance of the year after testing his form with a defeat of Lleyton Hewitt in Kuala Lumpur three weeks ago.
German Simon Greul became the first winner on Monday, reaching the second round with an upset of sixth-seeded compatriot Benjamin Becker 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.
The winner overcame a dozen aces from the seed and broke three times against a player who has lost his last seven matches in the first round. Becker was unable to reverse the dubious trend in 1 hour, 43 min.
Leonardo Mayer of Argentina accounted for number seven Alberto Montanes 6-4, 6-3. Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat a countryman as he put out Alberto Martin 6-3, 6-2.
Fourth-seeded Argentine Juan Monaco spent just over two hours in holding off Czech Jan Hernych 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 for a second-round place.
The winner, a three-time ATP finalist in 2009, took his 33rd victory of the season.