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Champions Nadal and Ivanovic knocked out

Text by Emmanuel VERSACE , , special correspondent at the French Open

Latest update : 2009-06-09

Defending champion Rafael Nadal (pictured) was knocked out in the fourth round by Sweden's Robin Söderling in one of the greatest upsets in the French Open's history. Ana Ivanovic was also forced to give up her championship title.

It was a black day for the titleholders at the French Open. If the exit of Spain’s Rafael Nadal was a surprise, that of Ana Ivanovic wasn’t much of one.

The tournament’s overall favourite and one of the best clay-court players in history, the world number one Spaniard was taken out in the fourth round by Robin Soderling, ranked 23rd in ATP classification.

The Swede has had a difficult relationship with the Spanish favourite since a third round at Wimbledon in 2007, when the two players ended up trading insults through the media.

The adversaries met again in Rome last May. The confrontation was brief: Nadal beat the Swede (6-1, 6-0), Soderling’s greatest defeat to date.

So does this victory feel a bit like revenge?

No, says Soderling, who is tired of answering the question and who instead wishes to savour what he called the “greatest moment” of his career.

Soderling played at the top of his game against Nadal, combining powerful serves and forehands which bettered the Spaniard's moves.

“He played a good match, and I did not play my best,” said Nadal.

Soderling — whose coach is Magnus Norman, the last Swede to reach the final of the French Open in 2000 — continues the quest for the Coupe des Mousquetaires.

Ivanovic: ‘I wanted to please myself’

Ana Ivanovic, the holder of the women’s title, also bowed out on Sunday. Ivanovic had not particularly shined in her previous matches.

A first round against Italian Sara Errani proved a challenge, and while she eventually dispatched her opponents in the second and third rounds, it was without the genius of the Ivanovic of 2008. Thus her fourth-round defeat in two sets (6-2, 6-3) at the hands of the promising Belarusian Victoria Azarenka (world number nine) was not particulary surprising.

The Serb said after her elimination that her goal was not to defend her title. "I did not really have a specific objective,” said Ivanovic, who first claimed the top WTA ranking by winning the French Open in 2008. “I wanted to please myself.”

After her 2008 victory, Ivanovic fell to eighth place and was not even among the favourites of this year’s French Open.

Date created : 2009-06-01