Tennis fans have their favorites, of course. And the sport itself has its titans, the power players in both the men's and women's games who rarely relinquish their thrones. Still, when a perennial foil is ousted from the game, one finds something missing. A certain je ne sais quoi is lacking that makes the Grand Slam tournaments more intriguing. Think of the gap in women's tennis when a top-form Martina Hingis was forced from the game (twice) due to her cocaine suspension and injuries. Even if you didn't relish her playing style or her personality, you acknowledged that there was a void.
Sport is competition, which demands that upstarts and challengers storm the castle walls time and again so as to overtake the rulers. Thus it's sad when someone like Robin Soderling, so long a primary catalyst of Grand Slam drama, is knocked off the tour due to health issues. Mononucleosis felled the Swede in July 2011, and he hasn't returned to competition since, now noting that he won't play in the French Open, Wimbledon, or the Olympic Games in London due to his condition.
Mono has harmed Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, and many more greats and Top-20 players in the past few years. Now the only one to ever usurp Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros won't be able to wield his mighty forehands against the ATP Top 3 at this year's clay-court major event. And that, regardless of your affinity or dislike of the player, is a loss for tennis itself.
Here's wishing Robin Soderling well for a safe and speedy and full recovery from this malady. (And congratulations on the announcement that him and his wife Jenni are expecting their first child in September.) The man is too talented to be stopped short of further glory on the court.
For now, here's Soderling in happier times:
—Jonathan Scott (Find me on Twitter @jonscott9.)