French Open 2011: Rafael Nadal Cruises into Semifinals
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Going into the match, this looked like it would be a tough match-up for the five-time French Open champion Nadal.
In the first round, he dropped two sets against American John Isner, and despite winning the rest of his matches in straight sets, he continually spoke about how disappointed he was with his form.
The fact that the current World No. 1 was playing Soderling, the only man to beat him at Roland Garros in his career, added to the uncertainty.
Yet Nadal’s level of play in the first half of the first set erased any of those doubts. The Spaniard broke Soderling twice, and although he surrendered a break of serve later in the set, he wasn’t threatened in his other service games.
In fact, he won 80 percent of points on his second serve, while Soderling won only 36 percent.
That may indicate how dominant Nadal was from the baseline. He had eight winners to four unforced errors, compared to Soderling’s 14 winners and 15 unforced errors.
Nadal trampled Soderling, the World No. 5, in the second set. The World No. 1 broke Soderling early, and the Swede couldn't manage a break back.
He did put up more of a fight in the third set, drawing level with Nadal after another early break of serve.
Soderling even had three break points at 5-5. At 15-40, Soderling had Nadal on the run for several shots, but a down the line forehand from Nadal disrupted the Swede’s control over the point, which led to an easy winner for the Spaniard.
Nadal hit his third ace of the match at 30-40, and although Soderling earned another break point chance, he couldn’t capitalize.
The match went to a tiebreaker, and the Swede started it well with a backhand winner. But he then double faulted and netted a forehand.
At 3-1, he had Nadal on the run in another long rally, but he was unable to finish the point.
That point proved to be crucial, as it gave the World No. 1 the breathing space he needed to finish the match.
The real difference in the match may have been Nadal’s ability to make Soderling work hard to just win his service games.
For the match, Soderling won only 36 percent of his second serve points, which was a problem for him because he got only 57 percent of his first serves in.
His next opponent is Andy Murray, the man he beat in three sets at this year’s ATP Masters event in Monte Carlo.
He has a 10-4 record against Murray, and has won all three of their matches on clay.
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