Can Soderling replicate last year's performance?
PARIS -- He plays with the face of a feral cat.
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.
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"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.
Edge of darkness
The remaining few hundred fans left at Court Philippe Chatrier were chanting and screaming hysterically. Fabio Fognini was arguing vehemently with the chair umpire and the tournament referee and darkness was upon them. Gael Monfils, the French favorite, was wind-milling his long right arm, trying to stoke the crowd further.
It felt like Davis Cup.
With the match tied at 4-all in the fifth set of their second-round match at around 9:30 p.m., the players were told to play two more games and the Italian player objected. He argued for well over five minutes, a human rain delay, and was eventually assessed a penalty point. Amid a chorus of boos, he still won the game.
Monfils served in the gathering darkness and some nonchalant -- or extremely nervous shots -- placed him close to extinction. He saved three match points and held serve before the match was suspended at 9:56 p.m.
That at least deferred a massive meltdown by Monfils, who won the first two sets easily.
French journalists said they believed it was the latest a match has ever run at Roland Garros.
The two players will resume on Thursday with the score 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 4-6, 5-5 and 3 hours, 44 minutes.
News and information
Here's the comprehensive breakdown, by topic:
The notorious red and racy cancan dress (eight questions): "For me, it's just been pushing myself as a designer. I push myself on the court and off the court."
The second-round win (two): "She's scrappy, so she's going to throw up high balls, a slice, hit with some pace. I didn't know exactly what ball to expect."
Her new book, "Come to Win" (two): We did a lot of interviews with a lot of great people -- Vera Wang, Bill Clinton, Condoleezza Rice -- and how they started out in sport and how it made a huge difference in their life."
Speaking with Clinton (two): "People with such a busy schedule, you hope you can get 20 minutes. It ended up being like 45, so I was overjoyed. He played football at first, but rugby ended up being his better sport."
Hitting partner David Witt (two): "He gives some pointers that really make a big difference. At this level, it's those tiny adjustments that really do make a difference."
Her Havanese dog, Harold (two): "Right now he's in school with Mrs. Williams -- his teacher, Serena Williams. He doesn't learn a lot. He's disruptive to the class, but he has a crush on his teacher."
Dinara Safina's first-round loss (one): "She hasn't been playing a lot, but I'm sure with time she'll just get her rhythm again."
Her next match with Dominika Cibulkova (one): "I'll continue to try to execute my game and not worry really a ton about what my opponent is doing. I mean, nothing extremely special, so I'll figure it out."
Kimiko Date Krumm, who at 39 is into the second round (one): "The other day I was saying to Serena, I said, 'That means we have to play until we're 39.'"
Wimbledon (one): "Every time it's always different. It's never the same. So I never try to achieve that sameness."
Her tendency to scream during matches (one): "I started because Monica Seles was my favorite player when I was 10. So I started grunting, and that was 20 years ago. I haven't stopped. I blame Monica."
Scouting the Americans
U.S. mettle count: 11
Day 4 American win total: 1
Venus Williams was the only American to get on the board Wednesday, but there is an asterisk involved.
After numerous rain delays, John Isner finally sauntered out on Court 6 for his match with Italian Marco Chiudinelli that started past 8 p.m. local time. Presumably, that eventual result will count toward the Day 5 total.
Overall record: 11-12