Updated: May 26, 2010, 5:08 PM ET

Can Soderling replicate last year's performance?

Garber By Greg Garber
ESPN.com
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PARIS -- He plays with the face of a feral cat.

The grimace -- or is that a smirk? -- is a large component of Robin Soderling's game, but on Wednesday he inflicted some genuine pain on American Taylor Dent.

The score of their second-round match was 6-0, 6-1, 6-1, and it was over in 71 minutes. Soderling won 80 of 118 points and broke Dent's serve eight times.

"That was fun, huh?" Dent mused as he sat down in the cramped interview room No. 3. "I'd be a fool to say that I was [ever] in it. It would be tough to beat the 12-under French champion playing like that.

"A long but short day."

Almost historically so. Jan Kodes' 6-2, 6-4, 6-0 victory over Zeljko Franulovic in the 1970 French Open final required only 68 minutes.

"I mean, second round of the Grand Slam, you're not expecting to win that fast," Soderling said. "It was a good day for me."

A year ago, Soderling did the unthinkable and beat four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal here in the fourth round. It remains the only time Nadal has lost a match at Roland Garros. And it had a profound effect on perceptions of the scowling Swede.

Frankly, the events of May 31, 2009, became something of a burden as the season progressed.

"For a long time afterwards, people came up to me and said, 'Well done against Rafa,'" Soderling said. "I was always hearing people say, 'Oh, look, that's the guy who beat Nadal.' It got to the point where I really felt that I didn't want to be remembered as the guy who had beaten Nadal.

"Today, though, it's different, because I think I've played well for a while now."

It will be difficult to replicate last year's run to the French Open final. Soderling parlayed victories over Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Gonzalez into a meeting with Roger Federer. The 6-1, 7-6 (1), 6-4 final will be remembered for delivering Federer's career Grand Slam, but Soderling's game blossomed. He reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open and eased into the top 10 for the first time in his career.

Soderling has been scuffling lately -- he lost three matches in succession in Rome (to Stanislas Wawrinka), Madrid (Nicolas Almagro) and Nice (Olivier Rochus) -- but now that he's back on the shifting sands of Roland Garros, he has stabilized. Against vastly inferior opponents, he has dropped only seven games in six sets and seems headed, if he advances past a third-round match with Albert Montanes, toward a fourth-round collision with Marin Cilic.

"I'm happy with my two wins," Soderling said. "It doesn't matter how I play. What matters is that I won two matches and I'm in the third round."

Dent assessed Soderling's game this way: "Robin's got a great first serve. He just hits heavy, doesn't miss a whole lot. Unfortunately, he's going to have to go out and hit some more. You didn't get to see too much of his game today. The quality of tennis I played made it hard to gauge his level."

3 things I KNOW I think

1. Roger Federer never, ever messes up in the second round of the majors: The top seed slowly dismantled Alejandro Falla 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4 in a match that was visited by rain on several occasions. Federer is 38-0 in the second round of Grand Slam events and has won 29 of his past 30 matches in majors. The exception was his loss to Juan Martin del Potro in last year's U.S. Open final. Only three players left in the French Open draw have beaten Federer in a Grand Slam match: Rafael Nadal (six times), Novak Djokovic (once) and Juan Carlos Ferrero (once).

2. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is not sorry after defeating good friend and countryman Josselin Ouanna: "No," Tsonga said after the brutal 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 beatdown. "It's the way it is. I have to continue in the tournament." Tsonga won the match's first nine games. "He was playing with me," Ouanna said.

3. Rain is not such a bad thing at Roland Garros (unless you are a big-hitting American): After three lovely days of heat and humidity, weather interrupted play. The temperature dropped dramatically, and suddenly, the courts that were playing relatively fast calmed down and behaved the way clay courts are supposed to. Advantage: clay-courters.

Better footing for Clijsters?

Injured Kim Clijsters could be back in the mix -- we stress "could" -- in time for Wimbledon.

"Hopefully, I can be ready, and this whole month is kind of behind me and I can forget about it," Clijsters told reporters here, speaking in Flemish.

Clijsters has been a presence at Roland Garros, but not on the courts after suffering an injury to her left foot last month in Belgium's 3-2 Fed Cup win over Estonia in world play.

"I hit this backhand where I just did an open stance back and pushed off back to the middle and I felt this crack," she recounted. "I kind of knew straight away that something wasn't right. It wasn't just a normal joint crack or bone crack."

An MRI revealed a muscle tear and, later, ligament damage. Clijsters has been rehabbing ever since and was scheduled for another MRI on Wednesday. She had been doing a lot of running but none of the side-to-side movement necessary in tennis.

She tweeted around 9 a.m. local time that during her visit to the hospital, doctors cleared her to practice.

Clijsters left the game between 2007 and 2009 to have a child and, after missing 10 consecutive majors, returned with a flourish, winning the U.S. Open this past fall. Clijsters and countrywoman Justine Henin were two of the best players in the Indian Wells-Miami swing, and the folks at the All England Cub are hoping that both will be present next month and bring some drama to the proceedings.

Clijsters is scheduled to play next in Eastbourne, the Wimbledon warm-up.

"I'm planning on playing there," she said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Thinking too much?

Andrea Petkovic is that rare tennis player who has a fully functioning left side of her brain to go with the right side.

The 22-year-old Bosnian turned Russian speaks four languages and is said to be equally comfortable poring over the existential writings of Jean-Paul Sartre in French and the great writer-poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in German.

On Wednesday, she may have thought too much in a humbling match against Svetlana Kuznetsova, the defending French Open champion.

Petkovic held four match points -- count them, four -- in the second set against Kuznetsova, but squandered all of them with a barrage of unforced errors. When she eventually lost that second set, you had a feeling it was over; Petkovic appeared to be sobbing under her towel during the changeover.

Predictably, Kuznetsova rallied to win 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

The Russian is the No. 6 seed at Roland Garros but has played poorly by the standards of a two-time Grand Slam singles champion. She now stands at 10-9 for the year and has failed to reach the quarterfinals in all nine tournaments in which she has played.

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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