I guess having the only player to ever beat you at the Roland Garros facing you again is a great wake up call. Nadal and Soderling have had their clashes in the past, not with any positive aroma coming out of them. Nadal hasn’t been impressive in 2011, with Novak Djokovic stealing most of his thunder after his wonderful 2010. He struggled against John Isner in the opening round, he had a rough time against Ljubicic who’s a step away from retirement. Having Robin Soderling was just what Nadal needed to step up.
He didn’t give the Hard Hitting Swede a chance, winning in three sets 6-4, 6-1, 7-6. It wasn’t that close. Soderling wasn’t consistent, pressed by Nadal time and time again to his backhand. Soderling struggled with his first serve and was hardly able to produce any winners. Nadal was at his best, when there isn’t a shot he can’t reach, no potential winner he can’t counter, no defense stance he couldn’t turn into offense. Soderling had a decent third set, so it wouldn’t look like he didn’t put up a fight.
The second set was what I took from the match. Nadal suffocated Soderling and kept him running to the corners. Soderling had very few opportunities to comfortably use his massive forehand, making mistake after mistake.
Soderling, who used the excuse of the wind troubling him in the first two sets, had 41 unforced errors. Nadal, despite being broken twice, had only 13. I’m still with Novak to win the title, despite Federer being the most impressive player this tournament so far. He usually is, until he meets Rafa or Novak. Andy Murray has shown incredible resiliency in his mega comeback win over Troicki, moving on to easily beat Juan Ignacio Chela today in straight sets.
But don’t count out Nadal. Not when he’s playing with purpose, with focus like he did today. There’s no one left to really hate for him. The rivalries with Murray-Djokovic-Federer are completely different, a lot friendlier. I hope he still finds that something to make him play like he did today. It’s nearly impossible to beat him on clay when he’s like this, especially in Paris. He just got rid of the only man who ever beat him in the Roland Garros tournament.