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Four-time champion Nadal crashes out of French Open

Video by Sarah MORRIS

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-01

Defending champion Rafael Nadal was knocked out of Roland Garros in the fourth round, beaten 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 by Sweden's Robin Soderling in one of the greatest upsets in the French Open's history.

AFP - Rafael Nadal's hopes of a record fifth successive French Open title were crushed into the Roland Garros red dust by Robin Soderling's Swedish sledgehammer on Sunday.

In one of the greatest upsets in the tournament's history, the Spanish king of clay slumped to a first ever defeat here having racked up 31 wins in 31 outings since his 2005 debut.

Soderling's stunning 6-2, 6-7 (2/7), 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) victory came just a month after he'd won only one game in a 6-1, 6-0 rout at the Rome Masters, his third defeat in three matches against the world number one.

But he was man transformed on Sunday with the 24-year-old unleashing a formidable service game and a relentless, pinpoint accurate forehand which forced Nadal to constantly scramble for a foothold in the match.

"I just couldn't believe it when I won that last point," said a tearful Soderling who has never gone this far before in a Grand Slam.

"I'm so proud of myself. This is the best win of my career against a man who is the greatest claycourt player in history. But I told myself before the match that I had to believe I could win."

Nadal's first set loss was the first time he had dropped a set in the tournament since the 2007 final against Roger Federer, ending a run of 32 in a row.

The Spaniard was reeling from the outset at the hands of a man whom he'd accused of being one of the most unpopular players in the locker room after an acrimonious Wimbledon clash two years ago.

Nadal was broken in the fourth game as 23rd seeded Soderling went to 4-1 ahead and again in the crucial eighth as the free-flowing, uninhibited Swede continued to find the corners with devastating accuracy.

The 24-year-old deservedly claimed the opening set when the champion netted a backhand.

Nadal, despite missing his usual fluency and rattled by the unrelenting assault, broke for the first time to lead 2-1 in the second set only to surrender his advantage in the 10th game.

With most people inside Court Philippe Chatrier expecting a Nadal drive to fly past the big Swede, Soderling executed a fine backhand volley to go to 5-5.

Despite those heroics, Nadal ran away with the tiebreaker to level the match when, for once, Soderling's forehand missed its target and flew long.

The Swede, coached by compatriot and 2000 finalist Magnus Norman, refused to yield, breaking to lead 4-3 before backing it up for a 5-3 advantage in the third set.

He took the set when Nadal netted another weary forehand off yet another deep Soderling drive.

Nadal broke to lead 2-0 in the fourth set, but Soderling hit back immediately as another tiebreak loomed where the gallant Swede clinched his famous win on a second match point when Nadal went wide with a pick-up.

Soderling sent down nine aces in the match and fired a decisive 61 winners to the Spaniard's 33.

His reward is a match-up with either Russian 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko or Fernando Verdasco, the eighth-seeded Spaniard for a place in the semi-finals.

Sunday's drama would have delighted Roger Federer, who has lost the last three finals to Nadal, and who still needs a French Open to complete a career Grand Slam.

He plays his last 16 tie on Monday against Germany's Tommy Haas.

 

Date created : 2009-05-31

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