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Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Sunday, 31 May 2009 16:54 UK

Champion Nadal falls to Soderling

Venue: Roland Garros Date: 24 May - 7 June
Coverage: Live on BBC Red Button, live streaming and daily text commentary on BBC Sport website, updates on BBC Radio 5 Live plus second week commentary on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra. TV coverage on Eurosport.

Watch Nadal bow out in Paris

World number one Rafael Nadal suffered his first defeat at the French Open in a shock 6-2 6-7 (2-7) 6-4 7-6 (7-2) loss to Sweden's Robin Soderling.

Nadal, chasing a fifth straight Roland Garros title, saw his 31-match unbeaten run in Paris come to an end in one of the biggest upsets in tennis history.

Soderling's win comes a month after he was beaten 6-1 6-0 by Nadal in Rome.

"I told myself this is just another match," said the 24-year-old Swede, who now plays 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko.

"All the time, I was trying to play as if it was a training session. When I was 4-1 up in the (fourth set) tie-break, I started to believe.

When I win, it's because I play well, and that wasn't the case today

Rafael Nadal

"I just couldn't believe it when I won that last point. I'm so proud of myself. This is the best win of my career against a man who is the greatest clay-court player in history."

Nadal, who had won the Monte Carlo, Rome and Barcelona events in the run-up to Paris, admitted he had been below par.

"He didn't surprise me because I know how he plays and how dangerous he can be," said the 22-year-old.

"When I practised this morning I felt good. I felt very good, but it wasn't the case during the match. I didn't play my best. I played very short and I couldn't attack. I made it easy for him to play at his level. But I lost.

"I was not calm enough to face the important points, so I had to fight. But sometimes fighting is not enough. You have to play a good level of tennis.

Robin Soderling
I'm so proud of myself - this is the best win of my career against a man who is the greatest clay court player in history

Robin Soderling

"People think I win because I'm physically fit, but, no. When I win, it's because I play well, and that wasn't the case today."

Soderling had lost his previous three matches against Nadal but seemed a man transformed on Court Philippe Chatrier.

He unleashed one formidable service game after the next and his deadly groundstrokes put Nadal under severe pressure throughout.

The Spaniard struggled from the outset against a player with whom he was involved in an unsavoury spat at Wimbledon two years ago when Soderling mocked his pre-service routine.

Nadal was broken in the fourth game as Soderling went 4-1 ahead and again in the crucial eighth as the free-flowing, uninhibited world number 25 continued to find the corners with devastating accuracy.

When the 23rd seed took the opening set it was the first time Nadal had dropped a set at the French Open since the 2007 final against Roger Federer.

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


Nadal would then have been expected to storm past the 6ft 4in Swede but Soderling executed a fine backhand volley to go to 5-5.

The Spaniard did, however, run away with the tie-break to level the match when a Soderling forehand flew long.

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

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 tie-break loomed.

And when it arrived Soderling clinched his famous win on a second match point when Nadal went wide with a pick-up.

Davydenko caused something of a surprise to overcome eighth seed Fernando Verdasco 6-2 6-2 6-4.

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see also
Nadal stays calm after shock loss
31 May 09 |  Tennis
Super Murray into quarter-finals
31 May 09 |  Tennis
Ivanovic sent to defeat in Paris
31 May 09 |  Tennis
French Open day eight as it happened
31 May 09 |  Tennis
Order of play
23 May 09 |  Tennis

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