With a career-high ranking of 4, 10 titles, two Roland-Garros finals and a career record of 310-170 under his belt, Robin Soderling announced his retirement as a professional player in 2015. He concentrated on coaching before getting the call at the end of 2019 to take over from Johan Hedsberg as captain of Sweden’s Davis Cup team.
Congratulations on being named captain of the Swedish team. What does it mean to you?
For me it feels like a privilege. I was, of course, very honoured to be approached. As a former player, I feel that the circle is now closing for me.
One of my biggest memories of the Davis Cup was from when I was about 10, watching Sweden against the USA in the final in Gothenburg. I was dreaming about one day playing in the Davis Cup.
I think I’ve always liked the Davis Cup. Tennis is an individual sport, but it’s great to travel with the team. As a player, my best memories are from Davis Cup matches, especially ones that were away. We could get together more as a team.
It’s great to get the chance to now be captain. When I was asked, I’d never really thought about it before. Johan Hedsberg had been doing such a good job. With him we’d really had a good record.
You’re an experienced coach – what do you think that brings to the captaincy?
I had been coaching Elias Ymer, and I’ve got a lot of coaching experience. It’s one thing being a former player, but it doesn’t mean that you’re a good coach.
But I think I also have the advantage that I still play two to three times a week, that I was a good player and that I’m still on the court. You can get a perspective when you look at a player, but you can get a different one when you’re on court with them.
I’m pretty comfortable that I can do a good job with the team.
As well as your 10 titles and reaching No.4 in the world rankings, you took part in 10 Davis Cup ties. What is your best memory in this competition?
I remember a really tough match was when we played against Argentina in Buenos Aires in 2008. We lost 4-1, but I played really well against [David] Nalbandian. It was a great atmosphere – it was tough being a Swedish player as you had the whole stadium against you, but it was a great atmosphere.
Do you remember your first Davis Cup match? It was in 2004 against Lleyton Hewitt…
It was a really tough one! I’d broken into the top 10 in 2003. I was not very experienced and then I had to play against Lleyton Hewitt, away. I told [captain] Mats Wilander afterwards, ‘Thank you for sacrificing me!’ It was a very tough experience. I didn’t play well, but I think I would never have beaten Lleyton Hewitt even if I had been playing well. It was a really tough start.
" I can really help the other players. When I was coached by Magnus Norman, it was good to be able to speak to him because I knew that he had been in the same position as me"
How will those experiences help you now as captain?
I think that having been a professional player myself, I can really help the other players. When I was coached by Magnus Norman, it was good to be able to speak to him because I knew that he had been in the same position as me. It’s nice to speak to someone who has been in the same situation.
I’m sure that even a player like Roger [Federer] can feel nervous sometimes. No matter how experienced, you’ll still feel the same sometimes. I think that with my experience I can help the players mentally.
Last year in the Qualifiers, Sweden lost to Colombia as visitors. This time you are going to be the host nation against Chile. What can we expect from this tie?
Of course, it’s going to be a tough one. And it should be, it’s a Davis Cup Qualifier. We have a slight advantage being at home, I think it would have been even tougher away. I’ve heard that lots of tickets have already been sold.
I looked at the draw that we could have had – there were some really tough ones. It could have been worse but it’s still going to be tough. The doubles in particular are always going to be very important.
We have Mikael Ymer, who’s playing really well at the moment. [His brother] Elias has struggled a bit with injury recently, but when he plays well he’s really good.
I think on paper we are slight favourites.
What would it mean for Sweden to make it to the Davis Cup Finals in November?
First, it would mean a lot for the players, getting the chance to play against the best in the world.
It would also be great for Swedish tennis. We need players to have success on the world stage. When you have role models for the kids in any sport, they will go and try it out. Maybe then they will be keen to try tennis rather than football or ice hockey.