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Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Sunday, 6 June 2010 17:01 UK

Inspired Rafael Nadal powers to fifth French Open title

Rafael Nadal and the French Open trophy

Highlights - Nadal regains French Open title

By Piers Newbery
BBC Sport at Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal won the French Open for the fifth time and made amends for last year's defeat by Robin Soderling as he swept past the Swede in straight sets to regain the title.

Nadal saved all eight break points he faced to come through 6-4 6-2 6-4 in two hours 18 minutes at an overcast Roland Garros and secure his seventh Grand Slam title.

"I played my best match against you," Nadal told Soderling during the trophy ceremony. "If not, it's going to be impossible to beat you."

Nadal then told the crowd in French that it was "the most emotional day in my career".

The victory ensures that the 24-year-old Spaniard will regain the world number one ranking on Monday and leave Roger Federer one week short of Pete Sampras's record of 286 weeks at the top.

Soderling, 25, must be content with the runner-up spot for the second year in succession, having become the first and only man to beat Nadal at Roland Garros in last year's fourth round before losing to Federer in the final.

The Swedish fifth seed had gained some measure of revenge with a highly impressive win over Federer in the quarter-finals this time around but failed to find a way past Nadal's impregnable defence.

NADAL v SODERLING MATCH FACTS
First serve 77% - 56%
Break points 4/12 - 0/8
Winners 28 - 32
Unforced errors 16 - 45

Nadal had come into Sunday's final on a 21-0 winning streak on clay that saw him win titles in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid.

But he had lost his last two matches against Soderling, and memories of the defeat 12 months ago on Court Philippe Chatrier were put to the Spaniard repeatedly ahead of the final.

The predicted overcast conditions were also expected to favour the Swede's flat hitting, as opposed to the heavy topspin of Nadal, but instead the match began in bright sunshine, and by the time the clouds came it was too late for Soderling.

There was a sign of things to come as early as the fourth game when Soderling earned the first break point of the match, only to thump a backhand over the baseline.

Nadal showed him the way in the very next game by converting his second break point with a backhand cross-court pass that the Swede allowed to drop inside the angle of sideline and baseline.

Soderling had said before the match that he hoped the experience of playing in the final 12 months ago would benefit him this time around, but it did not appear to be helping when Nadal had another two chances to break in game seven, before two big forehands got the Swede out of trouble.

Nadal then showed the first chink in his armour with a double-fault at 30-30 in the following game but Soderling put his forehand long, confirmed by a quickly raised arm from Nadal, and a tame backhand return saw a third break point slip by.

606: DEBATE
TennisWins

Soderling did well to recover from facing three set points at 0-40 in game nine with a purple patch of serving, but moments later he blazed a forehand wide on the fourth as Nadal served out the set.

Try as he might, Soderling just could not hit through the Spaniard's brilliant defence, and too often he made an error when a chance presented itself.

With clouds gathering overhead, the Swede attacked some short forehands from Nadal early in the second set, only to blast a backhand long with the open court gaping on the second of four more break points in a tense fourth game.

Having spent much of the first 75 minutes scrambling with success behind the baseline, Nadal went on the front foot to make the decisive move of the match.

A brilliant backhand cross-court pass and a wayward Soderling forehand saw the Spaniard break for 3-2 and he consolidated the advantage thanks in part to a magnificent point in game six as he returned a smash, worked his way into the net and angled away a beautiful volley.

Soderling looked as good as done for, and he gave up another break as Nadal wrapped up the set, before hammering a desperately loose forehand into the tramlines to drop serve at the start of the third.

There was one final chance for the Swede with his eighth break point of the day in game two but Nadal hit a fine swinging serve to slam the door shut and went on to serve out the match with little trouble.

And after 12 months that saw him lose his French Open and Wimbledon titles - as well as the world number one ranking - and suffer serious injury problems, the emotional Spaniard collapsed on the dirt before returning to his chair and breaking down in tears.

Nadal's victory makes another mark in history as he moves into second place in the all-time list of male winners at Roland Garros with five victories, one behind Bjorn Borg's record.

And like Borg in 1978 and 1980, Nadal has now twice won the tournament without losing a set, after a perfect run in 2008.

The win also books his place in the season-ending ATP World Tour finals at London's O2 Arena.



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see also
French Open men's final photos
06 Jun 10 |  Tennis
Soderling stuns Nadal in London
23 Nov 09 |  Tennis
Champion Nadal falls to Soderling
31 May 09 |  Tennis


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