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article imageNadal eliminated at Roland-Garros

By Michael Cosgrove     May 31, 2009 in Sports
Swedish player Robin Soderling has just eliminated Rafael Nadal in what is one of the major tennis upsets of the year. Here is the minute-by-minute report of a sumptuous match.
Nadal needed to play well here today to take some of the wind out of Roger Federer’s win yesterday over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, which amply demonstrated his return to form. Federer is beginning to look like a probable finalist, particularly as his main group rival, Novak Djokovic, crashed unexpectedly out of the tournament in straight sets.
But Nadal lost. 3-6 7-6 3-6 6-7
Soderling, Nadal’s 4th round opponent today, has a devastating serve when he gets it right. Aged 24 and seeded N° 25, he is the only Swedish player in the Top 100.
The match opened on Soderling’s serve and his very first serve was a withering ace. He won the game easily, 40-15, confirming that his service was working. He continued to look confident as the first set progressed, helped by some uncharacteristic unforced errors and hesitation by Nadal, and he broke Nadal easily in the fourth game to lead 3-1. He served at 217 kilometers an hour in the next game, which he won effortlessly to lead 4-1 and put Nadal at risk of losing the set. The Spaniard’s frustration showed in the next game when he looked questioningly hard at the mark left by a ball that was evidently in, then at the line judge.
Nadal will surely want to forget the 34th minute of the set. That’s when he double faulted to lose his service yet again, and an extremely surprised Roland-Garros saw Nadal lose the set 6-3. It was his first set loss at Roland-Garros since 2007.
Set Two began at breakneck speed with some wonderful rallies. Soderling seemed to be surprised by the sudden pick up in pace and was broken in the third game to give Nadal a 2-1 lead. The following games were attractive and close, and Soderling got back into the swing of things, his renewed aggression being well appreciated by the crowd. His courage was finally rewarded when he broke Nadal to level at 5-5. He was rewarded by chants of “Robin, Robin” from the packed stands.
The set went to a tie-break which saw Soderling crack up while Nadal racked up a 6-0 lead in no time. He won the tie-break 7-3 and walked back to his seat with a 7-6 second set result which put the match even at 1-1 after almost two hours of play.
The third set raced to a 3-3 scoreline with a confident and daring Soderling seemingly unshaken by the loss of the previous set. Nadal did what was needed to win his service games but seemed strangely subdued. Both players looked resigned to the fact that they were probably headed for a long battle of attrition.
And so it was not really surprising when Soderling finally made the difference, breaking Nadal for the fourth time to take the lead 4-3. As for Nadal, I can't remember seeing him so out of sorts at Roland-Garros for years.
Soderling deservedly wrapped up the third set, 6-3, sitting down to thunderous applause. Nadal, on the other hand, is not someone I’d like to pick a fight with right now. He looks absolutely furious.
Nadal, to his credit, didn't lose his nerve. He came out for the fourth set and broke Soderling immediately. He went on to win the second game easily for a 2-0 lead, his first two-game lead of this thrilling match. Soderling reacted immediately however, coming up to the net whenever he could in an amazing demonstration of aggression and flair, breaking Nadal and pulling the set back to 2-2. Every point was hard fought and the level of tennis improved as the games went by.
3-3 and the match is looking very tight. Things are really hotting up and a sure sign of that is that Nadal has started grunting loudly with every shot he plays. It's as if he knows that he's going to have to pull out all the stops to win this set, never mind the match. Soderling shows no sign whatsoever of weakening and commentators are asking serious questions about the outcome here.
The rallies are of extremely high quality, particularly given that both players are under a lot of pressure for each point. Soderling served at 4-5, and Nadal had the chance to take the set and take the match to 2-2. Soderling did not crack though, and this set could well be heading for another tie-break.
The same scenario at 5-6. Soderberg serves to save the set, and the game is extremely tight. Soderberg finally wins it and the set goes to a tie-break, the second of the match. Soderberg has everything to win, and Nadal, everything to lose....
This palpitating tie-break was full of breathtaking tennis.
And it was won by Soderberg, who has pulled off an amazing hold-up at Roland-Garros, beating Rafael Nadal in what is a major upset.
This fabulous match will doubtless be remembered for many years to come.
Robin Soderling
Robin Soderling
Chocodardon
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