Nadal bests Soderling for French Open victory

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Nadal bests Soderling for French Open victory

PARIS - Rafael Nadal won his fifth French Open title Sunday, beating Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. Chasing down shots all over the court, the relentless Spaniard also avenged his lone Roland Garros defeat.

Nadal improved to 38-1 at the French Open, with the only loss to Soderling in the fourth round a year ago. Seeded No. 2, Nadal won seven consecutive games midway through the match and held every serve, saving all eight break points he faced. He became the second man to win the French Open at least five times, and next year he’ll have a chance to match Bjorn Borg’s record of six titles.

Soderling finished as the runner-up for the second year in a row. In 2009 he lost in the final to Roger Federer. With the victory, Nadal moved to the top of the rankings yesterday, replacing Federer.

The weather was mild and mostly cloudy - a nice day to go running, and Nadal did plenty of it. Playing farther behind the baseline than in their match last year, he skidded across the clay and lunged to dig shots out of the corners, repeatedly extending points until Soderling finally misfired.

The big-swinging Soderling tried to win points quickly and sometimes did, but most of the long rallies went Nadal’s way. Before the first set ended, the Swede was panting between points.

To compound Soderling’s woes, he had an off day with his serve, his biggest weapon. He totaled only seven aces, the same number as his opponent. Nadal’s persistence paid off early in the second set. Facing a break point, he retrieved shots from both corners and punched back a slam from Soderling, then charged forward and hit a deft drop volley for a winner. Fans roared and Nadal threw an uppercut accompanied by a leg kick.

Another eye-popping sequence came three games later. Nadal slid into the corner beyond the doubles service line to hit a forehand winner that left Soderling shaking his head.

On the next point, Nadal raced to the other side and yanked a lunging backhand cross-court for another winner.

Those points helped Nadal break at love for a 3-2 lead, during the run that allowed him to take firm control. He managed three consecutive service breaks, and by the time Soderling finally held to stop the skid, he trailed 2-1 in the final set.

Even the points Nadal lost took a toll on his opponent, who was coming off a grueling five-set win over Tomas Berdych in the semifinals. The Swede, who was seeded fifth and upset Federer in the quarterfinals, again came up short in his 26th Grand Slam tournament.

Nadal improved to 22-0 this year on clay and now switches to grass, where he’ll seek a second Wimbledon title after missing last year’s tournament because of knee trouble.

Nadal won all 21 sets en route to the Roland Garros title for the second time in three years. Only two other men in the Open era have won the title without losing a set, Borg and Ilie Nastase.


AP

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