Swede Robin Soderling rolled into his second consecutive final at the French Open on Friday, fighting through five sets to overcome Czech Tomas Berdych 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.

The fifth seed will face the winner from four-time champion Rafael Nadal or Austrian challenger Jurgen Melzer in the Sunday title match.

Soderling had to work for just under three and a half hours to get through over a player against whom he stood 5-3 coming in.

The 2009 finalist who lost to Roger Federer will be bidding to become the first Swedish champion at Roland Garros since Mats Wilander in 1988.

The big-hitting Soderling was outpaced on aces by the 21 of Berdych while managing 18 himself. The winner’s game was almost perfectly balanced between 62 winners and 63 unforced errors.

Berdych was broken three times in the final set, including a game to love which gave Soderling the 1-0 lead. But the Czech fired back a game later for 1-1 to restore equilibrium.

Soderling edged ahead against for 4-3 after saving one break point but found himself under huge pressure in the ninth game. A weak backhand into the net gave Soderling a match point, which the Swede swept up a from the last of his opponent’s 41st unforced error.

“This match was more than tough,” said Soderling. “Tomas played really well, it was tough for me to play my game.

“He hit so hard, all of his returns were landing about ten centimetres from the baseline, he gave me not time to react.

Soderling is the first man to defeat defending champions at Roland Garros in consecutive years — he beat Rafael Nadal in 2009 and Roger Federer this week — since Mats Wilander overcame Yannick Noah in 1984 and Ivan Lendl in 1985.

“I had to work really hard today,” said the winner. I was a bit unlucky in the third set when I missed on some chances (down a break, got it back and lost serve in the final game on a Berdych game with four aces).

“He played well when it really, I had a tough time with his serve today.” The Swede said he never dreamed of being able to repeat his 2009 final. “I came here only thinking of the first round,” said the player whose best spring clay results was a losing Barcelona final.

“Two weeks late I’m in the final again, it’s unbelievable. It’s better than the best dream ever.”

Keywords: French Open

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