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Seventh-seeded Swede Robin Soderling (pictured) reached his fourth ATP indoor final this year after defeating No. 4 seed Gilles Simon of France 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 at the Grand Prix de Tennis de Lyon on Saturday. Soderling, who captured the 2004 Lyon trophy (d. Malisse), has a 2-6 career record in ATP finals (all coming indoors).
Soderling fired eight aces past Simon, who is No. 8 in the ATP 2008 Race for one of three remaining berths at the elite eight-player Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai. Nice native Simon has a 48-24 mark in 2008, highlighted by three ATP titles at Casablanca (d. Benneteau), Indianapolis (Tursunov) and Bucharest (d. Moya).
"I feel like I play better and better during this week," said Soderling. "Maybe I played my best match yesterday against Roddick. It's very difficult to play against Simon. Luckily I was able to improve after losing the first set, by playing more aggressively from the beginning of the second on."
Soderling improved to an ATP-best 21-6 on indoor courts this year and 43-20 on the season overall. The 24-year-old will attempt to win his first ATP title since 2005 Milan (d. ) in Sunday’s final. He has finished runner-up at Rotterdam (l. to Llodra), Memphis (l. to Darcis) and Stockholm (l. to Nalbandian).
"I was a bit unlucky in Rotterdam and in Memphis, but I have to say that Nalbandian was just the better player two weeks ago in Stockholm," said Soderling. "I feel well in Lyon. I have great memories since I won the title here in 2004."
Julien Benneteau won an all-French battle against No. 3 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-6(4), 7-5 in one hour and 46 minutes. The 26-year-old will compete in his second ATP final this year, after finishing runner-up to Simon in Casablanca in May. He has a 22-19 season record.
Tsonga, currently No. 12 in the ATP 2008 Race, clinched his maiden ATP title in Bangkok (d. Djokovic) last month. The 23-year-old Australian Open finalist (l. to Djokovic) dropped to 28-12 this year.
"He's been playing very well this week," said Soderling on playing Benneteau in the final. "I lost to him in Roland Garros this year, so I expect another difficult match."
Latest ATP 2008 Race Standings
1) Rafael Nadal* 1310
2) Roger Federer* 1001 (1016 if wins Basel title)
3) Novak Djokovic* 914
4) Andy Murray* 644 (659 if wins St. Petersburg title)
5) Nikolay Davydenko* 418
6) Andy Roddick 369
7) Juan Martin del Potro 354
8) Gilles Simon 341
9) David Ferrer 338
10) James Blake 310
11) Stanislas Wawrinka 301
12) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 290
13) Fernando Gonzalez 284
14) David Nalbandian 275 (290 if wins Basel title)
15) Fernando Verdasco 268
16) Gael Monfils 264
*Already qualified for Tennis Masters Cup Shanghai
Players in bold still active this week
Lyon Photo Gallery
Friday: Roddick In Shanghai Limbo; Simon, Tsonga Surge
Thursday: Roddick Serves Up QF Spot; Tsonga, Simon Win
Wednesday: Soderling, Simon Make Strong Starts; Robredo Falls
Tuesday: Gasquet, Tsonga Tough It Out; Roddick Advances
Monday: Robredo Advances; French Wild Card Upsets Ljubicic
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