ATP Tennis 360

June 7, 2010 3:39 AM

Five times Rafa

sport_roland_garros_2010_nadal_trofeo_morso_ansa.jpgRobin Soderling knew what he had to do. The ice-eyed Swede needed cannon serves and huge forehands, had to play with pace and anticipation to the deuce side and find angled accelerations. But he only sometimes managed to pass from theory to practice.

Eight break points wasted are definitely too much for the second-time losing finalist, not enough rewarded for his aggressive attitude, negatively balanced by an excessive amount of unforced errors.

The public hoped to see a big upset, but the hulking berserk didn't cash in on the momentum in the initial part of the first set, the only glimpse of uncertainty in the otherwise perfect match by Rafa.

Nadal admitted, after his triumph, to be the recordman for break points saved, and said when he had to grapple with them he gave something more. Today, when he had to face them, he profitted from the tremblant opponent who mis-hit from the left side often searching a masochistic excess of anticipation with lacklustre down the line backhands.

Soderling didn't succeed in presenting Nadal some unusual strategical problems. He simply tried, totally in vain, to overpower the Mallorcan from the baseline but was under the cosh, practically the equivalent of a sporting suicide.

In both the first two sets Soderling lost his serve at 2-2, and even when in the first he bravely saved two set points, nobody seemed to believe he could write a different ending. The worse, neither he felt to have a chance to meddle in an announced triumph, the more when he surrendered to another key break in the second set.

Nadal's defence appeared unbreakable, and so it was at the end of a 138-minute one-sided title-match. The Mallorcan had the gumption to admit "I've had to play my best match so far in this tournament" when the Italian old tennis star Nicola Pietrangeli gave him the trophy.

In this way he completed his series of revenges. Nadal defeated the guy who inflicted him his only defeat so far at the French Open just an year ago and came back at the world n.1 position he last held on June 29th, 2009 leaving Federer one week shy of equalling Pete Sampras's all time record of 286 weeks at the top of the ranking.

From now on, the real Spanish-Swedish duel can start. Nadal has now five Roland Garros' trophies in his showcase, one more than the French musketeer Cochet, one less than his "rival" Bjorn Borg, who posed his seventh seal at 23, an year younger than Nadal nowadays.

But his once seemingly unattainable primate, isn't any more so unshaken. Nadal won the Roland garros without losing a single set for the second time, as Borg, who conquered 11 majors: 6 time the French Open and 5 time Wimbledon. Nadal arrived to 7, winning also once at Wimbledon and once in Australia.

If he can continue as this year, with an astonishing streak of 22-consecutive victories on the clay letting him to become the first man in history to win all the three Masters1000 on this surface before the French Open, and the first already qualified for the ATP Masters Finals, Nadal could go on and triumph five times again in the next five or six years.

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