It was another windy day at Roland Garros when Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling took the stage on Court Philippe Chatrier, causing fears of a scrappy match. Nevertheless, the stadium was packed, the sun was out and the players were ready to go.
Rafael Nadal took the match 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 in two hours and 58 minutes. The match had three phases, with each set representing one phase.
Here are some of the stand-out moments of the match:
– Both players started nervy. Soderling was making too many errors, while Nadal kept hitting short. It seemed like the low confidence was still hurting the Spaniard.
Yet the Spaniard broke Soderling’s two first service games while also being broken once as well.
– Nadal was serving to take the first set, when on the first point, the big Swede had pushed Nadal back. The former champ hit a defensive forehand that Soderling could have volleyed, but instead the Swede left it and watched the ball dip viciously inside the baseline.
– In the next point, the two were locked in a rally when Nadal stopped it to signal that Soderling’s ball was out. Even though the five time French Open champion was right, the crowd insisted on booing him. The French crowd has never really warmed to Nadal, but you would think that on this occasion they would at least clap Nadal for being correct.
Rafa took the first set 6-4 in 49 minutes without either player playing well. Although the set was long, it was not that physical.
– It was one game all when Soderling was facing a break point. The two were trading shots when all of a sudden Nadal back-pedaled ferociously, runs around his backhand and hits an unreachable down-the-line forehand.
– After that amazing shot, the King of Clay finally emerged from his slumbers. The Nadal of old went on to win 17 of the next 23 points and broke Soderling another two times.
– A further indication of how the Spaniard was back to his best came in the second to last point of the set. The big hitting Swede had Nadal pinned back with some pummeling shots. The Spaniard hit three stretched, defensive backhands, the last one barely crossing the net.
Soderling approached the net and hit a drop shot that Nadal sprinted to, hits over the net and then smashes the return.
Rafa closed out the set 6-1 playing the best tennis he had thus far in the tournament and looking very much lighter on his feet.
– It was said before the match that Nadal had reduced the tension in his strings by one kilo in order to get the topspin he wanted on the ball; the change looked to have worked.
– The Spaniard was serving first in the third set, and after winning the first game, he immediately broke Soderling to win eight games in succession.
– Nadal let his concentration slip, however, and Soderling brought up two break points, breaking on the second when he hit an unstoppable forehand down the line.
– Throughout the whole match, the Swede’s down the line backhand was not working well. All the same, he reduced his unforced errors in this set and started giving Nadal more problems.
– At five all, Nadal faced three break points. Previously in the week, the defending champion explained how tennis felt “like a job” instead of a “passion.” However in the longest game of the match, the Spaniards passion seemed to be back when the “Vamos’s” were coming down hard and fast.
– The first break point was saved by a Soderling error, the second by an ace, and the third by another error from the Swede after a long rally.
– It looked like Soderling lost faith in the next game when he missed two forehands, one long off the baseline and the other wide, to go 0 – 30 down on his serve. The fifth seed showed great resilience and guts to fight back with his ferocious hitting that clipped the lines.
Third Set Tie-Break
– The first three points went against serve.
– Soderling was still trying to hit his backhand down-the-line, which had failed him during the whole match, and continued to do so in the tie-break.
– Another rally ensued where Soderling was hitting his usual brutal shots close to the lines and where Nadal was defending fiercely. But as always with Nadal, he turned defense into attack with three forehands down-the-line, one of them off balance, wrong footing the Swede and bringing up three match points.
– Nadal took the first match point when Soderling hit into the net in what would be his 41st unforced error.
Rafa took the set and the match 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 and has 43 wins and one loss on the courts of Roland Garros.
His next opponent will be the very dangerous Andy Murray, who beat Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina 7-6, 7-5, 6-2.