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Soderling Buoyed By Return

Robin Soderling made his ATP Champions Tour debut at home.© Getty ImagesRobin Soderling made his ATP Champions Tour debut at home.

Speaking during Kings of Tennis by Index Residence in Stockholm, Robin Soderling reflects on his return to the court, the rise of the Ymer brothers and Roger Federer's renaissance, having teamed up with Thomas Enqvist in the doubles.

How has your first experience been on the ATP Champions Tour?
I had a lot of fun. I have been visiting this event the past few years as a spectator and I really like it. It’s a good compliment for the ATP World Tour tournaments already in Stockholm and Bastad. This is something different. It’s so good for tennis in Sweden. The more events we have here, the more it helps the sport.

It really is a great event, with a beautiful venue, with the City Hall just outside and the atmosphere is brilliant. So when I was asked last year whether I could play, I didn’t hesitate for long.

Do you pick up a racquet much? What was it like getting ready for a match again?
Obviously when I wasn’t very well, I didn’t play much at all. Slowly I’ve started to play more. My goal was to play a lot before this event, but I ran out of time. I was a little bit nervous coming in, but I felt I played ok and I’m happy it all worked out.

What do you know about Sweden's Ymer brothers - Elias and Mikael? What do you see for them in the future?
Yeah, I know them. They are obviously a lot younger than me, so I didn’t practise with them much when I was on tour but they are doing well. They have been in a tough situation because Sweden is a small country, but we’ve had such success in the past and so many great players. All of a sudden, we don’t. I feel everybody is expecting them to be the next big stars and I think they feel that pressure a bit.

I see a good future for them, but they have to stay injury free. If they manage that and keep improving their games, then I don’t see any reason why they can’t be Top 30 or even Top 20 players for a long time.

How about the #NextGenATP players and those who will make a breakthrough this year?
For a couple of years there weren’t many players coming through, but now there are quite a few. Borna Coric is a player that I really admire, Nick Kyrgios is a little older, but he has a huge future ahead of him. There are the Ymer brothers and I also think Karen Khachanov is a great player, with a great future. It’s great for tennis because the stars at the top like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have been around for so long. They have carried the sport on their shoulders for so many years. One day they will all retire and I think it’s really important that we have new stars coming up.

Talking of Federer, did you expect him to be winning Grand Slams again?
I always said as long as Roger is playing, he always has a chance of winning a Grand Slam. He’s not the No. 1 favourite anymore but he’s playing extremely well. I don’t think he’ll be consistently on the tour. That’s almost impossible. But when he plays, he’ll compete for all the tournaments. As long as he feels he can beat everyone on court, I see him playing for a couple more years.

How do you assess the top of the rankings?
Novak Djokovic has been so outstanding for a number of years, but now you see how fine the margins are. He was dominant for the first six months of last year, then Andy Murray took over playing really well. It’s good to see that when the top two players aren’t playing at the top of their games, that there are so many players who are able to compete and have a chance of winning trophies. We have eight to 10 guys who can realistically win a Slam.

What was your secret weapon on court?
My determination. Whether it was a practice or a Grand Slam final, I always gave 100 per cent and always wanted to improve. Even if you love the sport as a kid, it does become a job, but my determination and will gave me a lot of success on the court.

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