Nadal reign in Paris comes to an end

Nadal tops Djokovic for 7th French Open title (2012 French Open)

The man they call "Rafa" won his record seventh French Open title Monday, returning a day after getting rained out to put the finishing touches on a 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic.

He denied Djokovic in his own run at history -- the quest for the "Novak Slam."

He broke the record he shared with Bjorn Borg, improved to 52-1 at the French Open and beat the man who had defeated him in the last three Grand Slam finals.

Nadal won his 11th overall Grand Slam title, tying him with Borg and Laver for fourth among the all-time leaders.

Congrats Nadal!!

Djokovic outlasts Nadal in longest Grand Slam final (2012 Australian Open)

Djokovic's 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 victory over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final is a sweat-drenched, sneaker-squeaking 5 hour, 53-minute endurance contest that ended at 1:37 a.m. Monday morning in Melbourne.

Djokovic overcame a break in the fifth set to win his fifth Grand Slam tournament and third in a row. Nadal was his vanquished opponent in all three.

Nadal thought his win in the 2008 final against Federer was the best match he's played, but gave Sunday's match a top place in his personal rankings nonetheless.

"This one was very special," he said. "But I really understand that was a really special match, and probably a match that's going to be in my mind not because I lost, no, because the way that we played."


Although this would be a tough loss for Nadal, he is happy that he can now compete with Djokovic on equal terms. Last year, he was never close to beating Djokovic, losing to him 6 times.

Rafael Nadal beats Roger Federer for sixth French Open (2011)

Nadal flummoxed Federer yet again Sunday in a riveting, highlight-filled match, beating him 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-1 for a record-tying sixth French Open championship and 10th major title overall.

2010 U.S. Open: Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to complete career Grand Slam

Now owner of a career Grand Slam at age 24, champion at three consecutive major tournaments and nine overall, the No. 1-ranked Nadal is suddenly chasing something else: recognition as the greatest tennis player in history.

Approaching perfection for stretches -- the guy played more than 40 points in a row without making an unforced error -- Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in a match filled with fantastic shotmaking by both men and interrupted by a thunderstorm a day after it was postponed by rain.

Nadal outclass No. 12 Tomas Berdych, wins the Wimbledon and French Open in the same year for the second time.

The King reclaims his crown.
Nadal wins fifth French Open title.

Nadal beats the No. 5-seeded Soderling of Sweden 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 Sunday

Three-time French Open champion Mats Wilander was impressed. "He's a much, much more complete player than he used to be," Wilander said. "He's playing faster, hitting the ball with lower trajectory and deeper, too. He's serving better, too, moving the ball around."

Nadal was asked about his ability to summon supreme concentration in break-point situations. He referenced the weekly ATP World Tour statistics package.

"I am No. 1 on break points saved," he said, laughing. "Specialist."

From ESPN.
Nadal's historic run in Paris ends.
How Soderling humanized Rafa in Paris.

Interview with Rafael Nadal after the match (rolandgarros)

At precisely 5:54 p.m. local time, history was made at Roland Garros. For the first time here, the 22-year-old Spaniard lost a match.

Nadal did seem uncharacteristically laconic at times and displayed negative body language throughout, but just as much, Soderling won it.

Playing the match of his 24-year-old life, Soderling prevailed 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2), which, considering the context, was one of the most staggering upsets in recent Grand Slam history. Nadal had won all 31 of his previous matches here and seemed destined to become the first man or woman to win five consecutive titles.

Coming into this fourth-round match, Nadal had won all 48 of his best-of-five matches on clay.

Afterward, he was still flushed, but composed.

Mats Wilander, a three-time champion at Roland Garros, analyzed the match for Eurosport.

"All the players are in a state of shock," Wilander said afterward. "At some point, Nadal was going to lose, but nobody expected it to happen today, or maybe even next year. Now there's a tournament to be won by a bunch of players.

"I think they're all having a beer tonight."

Only one month ago, Nadal strafed Soderling 6-1, 6-0 in Rome -- one of the worst losses in the Swede's career. But for 3½ hours at Roland Garros, Soderling consistently out-willed and out-stroked Nadal. And against all odds, he showed more heart when the points mattered most.

So what changed? Perhaps it was Madrid.

The blueprint for the victory was provided by Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer two weeks ago in Spain. Although Djokovic lost, he played an artful, passive-aggressive game that extended Nadal to more than four hours. Federer finished him off in a straight-sets final, but showed a different approach against Nadal than he has taken in the past.

He stepped into the court, making it a smaller playing field. He made a deliberate attempt to keep rallies short, going for shots that were sometimes beyond safe. He took huge cuts with his forehand, running around his backhand whenever feasible. He jumped on anything short and teed off on second serves. He mixed it up with slices and even a few drop shots.

This is precisely what Soderling did. What was so astonishing was that he was able to maintain that unconscious level for four sets.

Last week, Darren Cahill was asked for a game plan to beat Nadal. Cahill, who worked briefly with Federer earlier this year, had three words: High-risk tennis.

"You have to attempt as best as you can, to take Rafa out of his comfort zone," Cahill said. "The best way to do that is to be aggressive, very aggressive."

"I never was calm -- that's the truth," Nadal admitted. "The match started off very badly for me. I mean, the second set, I should have won it 6-4. Then there was wind, and that wasn't good.

"Then not being calm enough to face the important points, so I had to fight. But sometimes it's not enough fighting. You have to play a good level of tennis. Sometimes 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."

The King, it must be said, is still only 22 -- three days from 23rd birthday.

"Unfortunately, it's the first time I'm not going to celebrate my birthday in Roland Garros," Nadal said. "I hope I'll be able to celebrate more here and be back next year and try and win."

Hard to imagine, that Federer now has a sterling chance to win his first French Open and complete his set of Grand Slam trophies.

Soderling, for his part, plays Nikolay Davydenko in a surprise quarterfinal.

In his postmatch news conference, Nadal was asked the obligatory question about his preparation for Wimbledon.

"Right now, my preparation is for the swimming pool of my house," Nadal said, smiling at his own joke. "Yeah, give me three more days to think about preparation for Wimbledon."


PARIS -- Bjorn Borg's historical place here is safe, thanks to a feisty fellow Swede who froze out the hottest clay-court player of his generation.

"I'm expecting at least an SMS [text message] from him,'' Robin Soderling said, smiling under cocked eyebrows, after ending Rafael Nadal's quest for a fifth straight French Open title, which would have broken the record held jointly by Nadal and Borg.

"Robin, we know, has the capacity to beat anyone,'' Wilander said. "It's just that three out of five sets, mentally he hasn't been strong enough. He hits unbelievably hard from above his shoulders, so obviously Nadal was late and didn't put as much spin on the ball, but it was all caused by the opponent. It's monumental, it's been coming for a long time.''

"He thinks he can beat anyone on any surface,'' Wilander said. "I have to say finally it's nice to see someone stand up to Nadal mentally, and not be bothered by anything and let Nadal take his time, don't worry about it, and be in Rafa's face a little more than the other guys are doing.

"Robin is like that against everybody. He was like that against Nalbandian and 12,000 Argentines in Davis Cup. He really doesn't give a s---, basically. It's a throwback.''

Wilander said he didn't think there was anything Nadal could have done tactically to turn the tide, and Stubbs agreed, saying Soderling's 6-foot-4 height, albatross reach, frequently disguised forehand and flat, penetrating groundstrokes proved too much for Nadal to overcome.

"He's got those long levers to go running for Nadal's long, spinning balls,'' Stubbs said. "The reach helped him on the wide balls, and his height helped him on the high balls.

"Rafa looked shell-shocked today. It looked to me like he knew he didn't have it.''


Q. Do you think you maybe played too many tournaments lately?

RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, when you lose, always everybody starts to analyze if I play too much. If I'm tired. The true, I won four years in arow playing the same. That's the true. This year I play the same and I lost. What happen? I lost. That's it.

That what happened. I lost another opportunity to win a big tournament here. Always is a big loss for me. But in the end is one more match, yeah.

Q. You had to know this day would come. Are you surprised it came so quickly?

RAFAEL NADAL: What? (Through translation.)

I don't know. If you think it's soon after four years? (laughter.) Why do you think, no? A lot of players won four years here in a row? Is only another one, no?

Q. Was it the wonderful game level of Soderling on this surface, or because you were on a bad day or any other phenomenon, like you played in Barcelona then in Madrid? Maybe you played too many tournaments.

RAFAEL NADAL: Stop it. Stop it. Had I played my best level against Soderling, maybe the results would have been different. But he played a very good level of tennis and I didn't play well, so the results are what they are.

I didn't play at my best level. I have days like this, and this was one of those days. I had someone playing very well in front of me.

I'm not going to modify the way I prepare,because I've always prepared in the same way for the last four years. So that wouldn't make sense.

Q. A minute ago you were saying that, well, this day had to happen one day. So were you prepared, or are you surprised by this defeat?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, all of us athletes, we know that when we walk on the court we can either win or lose. I know it for a fact anything can happen, and I have to accept them both in the same way.

You cannot collapse either because you've won a match or because you've lost it. This is sport, and you can have victories or defeats. No one remembers defeats on the long run. People remember victories.

So I have to move forward. Well, I have little time left to prepare for Wimbledon, but I have to move forward and try and prepare the best I can.

Q. If there were no one from Spain, would you like Federer to win?

RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, that would be great. He's tried to win it for many years, and he was very unfortunate losing three finals and one semifinal. If one guy deserves it, that's him.

Federer ties Slam mark with French Open victory.


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