Playing a bit like he’s still upset about his only loss at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal defeated Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (3) on Wednesday to reach the French Open semifinals for the sixth time.
The five-time champion, who lost to Soderling in the fourth round in 2009 but then defeated him in last year’s final, is 43-1 at the clay-court Grand Slam and two wins away from equalling Bjorn Borg’s record of six French Open titles.
Nadal will next face fourth-seeded Andy Murray. The Australian Open runner-up defeated Juan Ignacio Chela 7-6 (2), 7-5, 6-2. Nadal was back on Court Philippe Chatrier to face the man who was responsible for his only blemish at Roland Garros. But with the wind gusting - at one point blowing specks of red clay into Nadal’s face - the fifth-seeded Swede struggled with his first serve, landing only 57 per cent during the match.
Nadal, however, didn’t appear to be bothered by the conditions, although he was broken twice. The top-ranked Spaniard made only 13 unforced errors, while Soderling had 41.
Emotionless for almost the entire match, Nadal was able to handle Soderling’s hard forehand while keeping his opponent on the move by spraying shots to all corners of the court. And when he smacked a forehand winner to hold serve to 6-5 in the third set, the crowd roared.
After five titles in Paris, Nadal had plenty of fans in the stands, and even some admirers. Besides the Spanish flags throughout the stadium, one woman held up a sign reading, “Rafa ganador, kiss me por favor” (“Rafa you winner, kiss me please”).
Keywords: French Open 2011