Lawn Tennis, Paris Open, Lawn Tennis Magazine
French Open Defending Champion Rafael Nadal Ousted
By Tripp Mateschitz , Lawn Tennis Analyst, Posted: Sunday, May 31, 2009 7:55pm PST USA
Four Time French Open Defending Champion Rafael Nadal Ousted, Robin Soderling, The French Open, Roland Garros 2009, Lawn Tennis Magazine Paris--( Perhaps a victim of his own success, the world number one Rafael Nadal of Spain won 19 of 20 claycourt matches played this spring then arrived in at the French Open somewhat flat before his shocking fourth round loss today.

In Paris, Nadal, the four time French Open defending champion, was upset by the 23rd seeded Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-2, 6-7(2-7), 6-4, 7-6(7-2).

Nadal, 31-1 at the French Open, had never before

Rafael Nadal of Spain | Image: Getty Images
Lawn Tennis Magazine, The French Open, Roland Garros 2009
Nadal, 31-1 in Paris, had never before today lost a match on the terre battue.

today lost a match on the terre battue.

The left-hander began his spring claycourt season this year in a similar fashion as in previous years by wining ATP Tour titles in Rome, Barcelona and Monte Carlo.

But then the Spaniard lost 6-4, 6-4 in the Madrid final to the world number two Roger Federer of Switzerland after having won a four hour semifinal the previous day.

The Madrid result perhaps gave Soderling some inspiration as he began the fourth round match by transferring his fast court game perfectly to the slower clay courts.

The Swede used his explosive serve and powerful groundstrokes, which had in the past won him his lone three ATP Tour titles on faster indoor surfaces, to dictate the action from the beginning of play.

With Nadal standing five or six feet behind the baseline to return serve, Soderling took set one without ever facing breakpoint after connecting with first serves many 130 miles per hour or faster and second serves not much slower.

Soderling dropped his level of play; however, near the end of set two as Nadal leveled the match at one set all after several errors from his opponent.

But after finding himself hitting many of his groundstrokes uncharacteristically short, Nadal normally a predator on a clay surface, found himself the prey.

In set three Nadal lost serve at 3-3 after hitting a lob long. On setpoint an overpowering Soderling forehand down the line sent a Nadal forehand crosscourt into the net.

In the final set, Nadal went ahead 2-0 before Soderling would fight back, slamming his fastest serve of the day, a 140 miles per hour ace down the tee to pull even at 3-3.

The set remained on serve to enter a decisive tiebreaker, during which the increasingly windy conditions proved to trouble Nadal's loopy topspin more so than the flat balls of Soderling.

With Nadal hitting four groundstrokes and a forehand volley wide, Soderling raced to a 5-1 tiebreak lead. Nadal netted a forehand passing shot to set up the first matchpoint at 6-1, which he erased with a forehand down the line winner.

At 6-2 on matchpoint number two; however, Nadal, possibly somewhat fatigued, sent a forehand volley wide to seal the stunning result.

“This is not a tragedy, losing here in Paris. It had to happen one day,” said Nadal.

“That's the end of the road, and I have to accept it. I have to accept my defeat as I accepted my victories: with calm.”

The 24 year old Soderling, one of the biggest hitters of the ATP Tour, had lost in five sets to Nadal two years ago at Wimbledon. But today he'd imposed his fitness and strength against a master of physical fitness.

“This is for sure the biggest moment so far of my career,” Soderling said. “I couldn't even dream of this before the match, so I will remember this match for the rest of my life.”

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