Defending Champs Nadal, Ivanovic Beaten at French Open
by Staff | May 31st, 2009, 1:23 pm

Roger Federer’s chance for winning a first French Open title multiplied on Sunday when four-time defending champ Rafael Nadal suffered a shock defeat in the fourth round to Sweden’s Robin Soderling 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(2), ending a record 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros.
Soderling, a spotty performer not known for his claycourt acumen, took charge with his forehand, flipping the script on the Spaniard.

“He can’t feel good right now,” said Soderling of Nadal, telling reporters the Spaniard is “the greatest claycourt player of all time.”

Nadal had beaten Federer in the last three French Open finals. Federer’s draw opened up yesterday when Novak Djokovic was unexpectedly bounced in straight sets.

Nadal had also won three of the last four Slams, including the first Slam of 2009 at the Australian Open.

“He didn’t surprise me because I know how he plays and how dangerous he can be,” Nadal told reporters. “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. It’s not a tragedy, I had to lose one day. I must accept my defeats with the same level of calm that I accept my victories.”

The event also lost its women’s defending champ Sunday when Ana Ivanovic sprayed unforced errors everywhere in a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus. World No. 1 Dinara Safina had no such trouble, blistering Aravane Rezai of France 6-1, 6-0.

“I’m just surprised that it’s really like five games that I lost before getting into the quarters,” Safina told reporters. “It’s not a bad feeling, and I hope if I continue like this I can go a long way.”

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41 Comments for Defending Champs Nadal, Ivanovic Beaten at French Open

Common Says:

Federer’s draw opens up! We will see.

sonic Says:

Bigest shock in tennis history…ever. The end of the match seemed so unreal.

Werid thing is Dementieva acutally prediced it. Check out her interview from yesterday.

ELENA DEMENTIEVA: Well, it looks like he’s ‑‑ I mean, heactually looks a little bit tired to me. Even he’s winning pretty easily his first two rounds, it doesn’t looklike he’s fresh enough. Maybe he wasplaying too much.

I think it’s going to be toughchallenge for him to win this time, actually.

Ryan Says:

“I must accept my defeats with the same level of calm that I accept my victories”

Thats a very good way to put it now that its over for him. And maybe thats why he wasnt that victorious after all…..

Giner Says:

Wow.. now this is a DOUBLE uh-oh.

If Roger Federer does not get inducted as the GREATEST of all time a week from now, this world has turned upside down.


And to Soderling of all people.

Voicemale1 Says:

Nadal lost on the square. Credit to Soderling. He racked up winners by the carload and just played better. He had Nadal on Defense from the go, went for broke on his shots and they went in.

I don’t think it’s accidental though that the two guys who were the most successful throughout the clay season, Nadal and Djokovic, are now gone from The French Open. Could it be that their epic 4-Hour Semi-Final in Madrid, coming as it did at the tail end of all the success they’d already racked up, cumulatively emptied their tanks for this one? Just a thought.

Giner Says:

Whoever wrote that comment about the curse of Borg should write a book. His record at both Wimbledon and RG will remain tied but unbeaten and probably never to be beaten this generation.

Federer must be laughing his way to the bank now. With both Djokovic and Nadal out now, if he doesn’t take full advantage of his fortune it could be THE defining irrevocable turning point of his career.

On the other hand, with the two top clay players out of the game, a 14th Slam in his cabinet and a career Grand Slam, he will dethrone Pete even without a 15th major.

The mouth watering finals and semi finals matchups are gone now, but the story has just gotten arguably even more interesting.

mem Says:

way to go, nadal! i love your attitude! soderling played better and you acknowledge that, that’s what great champions do! it’s certainly not the end of the world! good luck as you go forward!

PietjeP Says:

I was surpised as well. But sometimes the talking about racking up consecutive titels is too easy.

Everybody talked about Federer winning 8 titles at Wimbledon; Nadal taking at least 8 at RG… There is a reason why it has never been done it the past!!! Which in retrospect makes the accoplishments of Sampras and Borg even greater.

For me between the two (Fed/Nadal), Fed’s 5 consecutive titels at the US open is still the best accomplishment. Because the biggest depth in the field of players is on hard courts.

Roger should not get carried away now. He should still look at it one match at a time. And with Monfils and Tsonga (French crowd favourites). He is still in for a tough ride… But he must be smiling in his hotel room…

jane Says:

I think the baby is doing kicks.

Common Says:

Does any one know when NBC plays the Nadal-Soder”MAN” “live”, as they like to call it?

Common Says:

A friend sent me a twitter message. 3PM ET on NBC

Shan Says:

This is Federer’s best chance in his career to bring home the final missing slam. If he fails he may never have another shot at it.

jane Says:

Sharpie pulls another one out of the fire and lives to fight another day.

Common Says:

You have to give to Shriekapova. No one fights like her. She was down a break in the third.

vared Says:

Vika/Maria or Vika/Cibulkova, pleeeeease.

Howard Says:

Nadal over-committed to the tour through the spring.
He didn’t look himself in the greatly entertaining victory over Djokovic a few weeks back, nor in the defeat to Federer. His normal aggression hasn’t been there. Important lessons there for his longer term viability at the top of the game. I don’t think a Federer victory, meanwhile, is a foregone conclusion, and wouldn’t it be interesting if the rest allows Nadal to recover his dominant form in time for Wimbledon.

anonymuos Says:

This blog sucks so much. Can’t even give due credit to Soderling and calls him “spotty”.

vared Says:

Predictions for the other half?
I like JJ vs. Cirstea just for her experience.
Razzano Stusur who cares
I would like Kuzzy over Radwanska
I want Wozniak over Serena

Dean Jones Says:

The players that have done the best against Nadal are the ones that can hit flat and hard such as Blake and now Soderling. Rob him of time and you have a chance.

FoT Says:

Sorry to the Nadal fans…but one thing that is probably hard to digest… to lose to SODERLING of all people! Now that’s hard to digest.

But to the Nadal fans here, your boy is still young and he will bounce back so hang in there.

jane Says:

I want Wozniak too; she’s a canuck like me. JJ might come through that quarter or Kuz. Of course it’s tough to count Serena out but she’s not looked her best.

Azarenka will have a tough time beating Safina; she’s been on fire this clay season and at this event.

NachoF Says:

I dont think the rest thing matters too much.. they still have a smaller grass (either Halle or Queens, right?) tournament before Wimbledon… if a player decides he needs to rest he can skip that tournament.

margot Says:

The FO suddenly became a lot more exciting didn’t it? Everyone left is in with a chance whereas b4 people, and I was one of them, were saying “oh no, whose gonna lose to Rafa this year?” The courts seem different too. I saw the Spanish woman who played Serena doing a lot of serve and volly which you hardly ever see anywhere, leave alone clay.
Generally the women’s tournament seems better too and Safina’s looking strong but who’d underestimate Sharapova?
Also, I agree with jane, after last year, Wimbles is a lot more interesting too.
Let the good times roll!

mem Says:

FoT, thanks! i’m a nadal supporter, but rafa was outplayed and that’s a fact, but i admire the way he accepts defeat. he is such a realistic thinker. it’s not a big deal for me because i’ve been watching him for a long time and he has a positive mindset despite the losses. i love that! he knows how hard it is to stay at the top, winning tournaments week after week, against some of the best players in the business. djokovic’s exit is another example of just how tough it is to play every match well. i realize that it is what it is and i move on like rafa does! He was asked after the match what his preparations are. He said jokingly, “he was headed to the swimming pool.” he has been taught how to accept defeats better than anyone i know and that is one of the greatest qualities that a player can possess. now that he has next week off he can rest and practice before going to Queen’s Club to defend his title!

Ryan Says:

“he knows how hard it is to stay at the top, winning tournaments week after week, against some of the best players in the business”

then wat do u have to say about fed’s 237 weeks at number 1 and 19 consecutive grand slam semi final appearances.

Ryan Says:

All the people who bring the weak competition argument could learn from nadal’s defeat. There is no such thing called weak competition.Even the best of the best can lose to ordinary players on any given day.

FedRafaFan Says:

If Fed manages to take full advantage of this situation and capture the French Open title (he has 4 opponents to go: Haas, Roddick/Monfils winner, JMDP, and most likely Murray in the final) how close will he be to retaking the #1 spot? Doesn’t Nadal lose nearly 2000 points while Federer gains 1000? It should shorten the gap to about 1000 points which means the top spot could change hands depending on what happens in Wimbledon. I think Rafa’s loss at his best surface where he has been dominating for so long will give confidence to more players. Soderling has finally solved the Rafa Riddle … for now. Nadal may be more vulnerable at Wimbledon after this loss.

jane Says:

Good ESPN article; supports theory that Djoko and Fed showed Soderling the way but that Soderling executed excellently:

Kimmi Says:

mem, its good to see that you are toning it down a little. Your posts before were very aggressive, giving nobody a chance but Rafa. Good to see you are learning the hard way, just remember in the future that this is sport, anyone can beat anyone and you can never count anyone out. :)

Kimo Says:

The poll on the home page asking who would Rafa beat in the final gives 57% to djoko and 39% said Nadal won’t win.

These two days have been by far the most interesting in any major for the past few years.

Samprazzz Says:

I predicted that Rafa would not make the final on another thread. You could see he was very tired, played too many matches leading up to this tournament.

Veljko Topalovic Says:

What a move from Eurosport. Instead of exstreamly interesting (for punters) tennis matches, they televised biking? Who is betting on biking? and who cares about it?

steve Says:

Nadal will be back next year. Great champions are great even in defeat.

I am a little disappointed. Federer should have been the one to end Nadal’s run at Roland Garros, but alas, things don’t always turn out so neatly.

jane Says:

“These two days have been by far the most interesting in any major for the past few years.”

I personally thought the AO 2008 slam was because BOTH Federer and Nadal were out and we had a completely FRESH final with Djokovic and Tsonga. It was an exciting and electric final and I hope to see more of those in the future.

grendel Says:

A year or two ago, Wilander wondered if Nadal – in his pursuit of hard court glory – would suffer the same fate as him. For when Wilander (after winning 3 French Opens) experimented with his style and strategy to take account of other surfaces, he found it affected (adversely) his performance on clay.

Is it possible this is happening to Nadal? (I think an earlier poster suggested something like this).

A lot of people are suggesting tiredness lies at the heart of Nadal’s defeat. Well, this may be true, I don’t know. But I have noticed that whenever Nadal is beaten, the question of fatigue comes up. It is a remarkably consistent refrain. Surely this is a little implausible. Otherwise, Nadal perhaps needs to consult a physician.

More reasonable, I think, is Frew Macmillan’s comment, which I alluded to on this site a few days ago. He felt Nadal was due to suffer a loss on the big stage soon, quite possibly at Roland Garros. He, too, had a kind of “tiredness” in mind, but not physical. More a sort of emotional fatigue which comes (in Macmillan’s view) with the debilitating burden of endless expectation of success – and it was on these grounds that Macmillan foresaw Federer’s decline, right at the time when he was riding high. I was interested – and hopeful – but ultimately felt that Nadal somehow eluded these basic psychological axioms. Such is the power of myth. Or the gullibility of yours truly.

That said, Nadal hasn’t suddenly stopped being the best player in the world. He is still the automatic favourite for every tourney he enters. This may change, but certainly not on the basis of one bad defeat. Remember Sampras being blown off the court at Wimbledon by Kraijcek? How many more Wimbledons did he proceed to win – 4, wasn’t it?

Meanwhile, what is all this rubbish about the tourney being Fed’s to lose? If someone came up to me with a gun and told me that I had to nominate a winner, and that if I got it wrong I would be shot, after perhaps a little bit of torture, and if I had every reason to believe him – one could simply tell that he was that kind of chap – then I suppose I would, with some reluctance, go for Federer. But then, suppose this man said, no, Federer is not allowed, but you can pick anyone else, I wouldn’t feel paerticularly dismayed. There’s about 4 or 5 players left who would do just as well.

Whichever way you look at it, the odds aren’t good that you’re going to come up with the winner. This has become a quite remarkably open tournament.

jane Says:

The slams are unpredictable right now, which makes for exciting times ahead: no one thought Fed would win USO 08 but he did; everyone thought Murray would win AO 09 and Rafa FO 09, but they didn’t. I predict the same unpredictableness will preside over the rest of the season. LOL. Hope so anyhow.

Skorocel Says:

Veljko Topalovic: “What a move from Eurosport. Instead of exstreamly interesting (for punters) tennis matches, they televised biking? Who is betting on biking? and who cares about it?”

Biking? LOL! Anyway, pretty much agree with you… I don’t want to insult any of the cycling fans, but I just don’t get it why the must the Giro d’Italia collide with the first week of FO?! Year after year, the same happens… One wakes up and, just out curiosity, looks up the live scores at the RG website, sees Nadal’s finally in real trouble at RG, dashes to turn on the TV, and then sees cycling? WTF?

club pro Says:

Rafael Nadal is one of the top two clay court players of all times and did not play a bad match today but did not play a great match today either…….I have been watching tennis for 30 years and I will say that the reason Nadal was not able to find his A game had alot to do with the way Robin Soderling was playing…….If Nadal is not allowed to play long points it is hard for him to get into a rythm from the baseline which in turn causes him to drop the ball short which allowed Soderling to take control of the points immediately…..There will be alot of different theories as to why Nadal lost this match but the bottom line is Soderling had the right game plan and executed it to near perfection and this is why we have this result……To me this does nothing to minimize the incerdible acheivements of Nadal on clay and his unmatched fighting spirit in the history of tennis but what it does I think is highlight the unimaginary records that Roger Federer has set over the past 6 years……..(19 consecutive major semifinals)……..(10 consecutive major finals)……(5 consecutive Wimbeldon Titles)……..(5 consecutive US Open Titles)……(65 consecutive grass court wins)…..(56 consecutive hard court wins)…….(14 of the last 15 grandslam finals)…….(237 consecutive weeks at #1)……..I am not a fan of either player more than the other but these numbers that Federer has produced over the last 6 years is absolutely unreal…….and I believe the loss today from Nadal does not hurt his legacy but it makes what Federer has done look that much more incredible……I personally believe that with Nadal now out of the tournament that Federer is going to feel pressure like he has never felt before in his career, and if he comes through and defeats these opponents to win the French Open and ties Pete Sampras and also wins the career grandslam that he should without a doubt, and will be called the “greatest tennis player that has ever played the game”……Also if he does this he would go into Wimbeldon full of confidence with the oppurtunity too break the major titles record and regain the number 1 ranking at the same time…….If he does this I personally believe that Roger will call it a career and I believe he will have earned the right to retire…….But there is along way to go still but if anyone can do this it is Federer!

TejuZ Says:

agree with club pro here… there will be immense pressure back on Fed now since Nadal is out. He is once again the favourite now for RG, and to top that he is chasing records here… its not something thats new for him..but its the same situation when he was No 1 and was expected to win everytime.

margot Says:

Just makes Borg’s achievements seem all the more remarkable to me.

scineram Says:

“If he does this I personally believe that Roger will call it a career and I believe he will have earned the right to retire”

This is nonsense. He is not that kind.

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