Rafael Nadal seeks top spot as Robin Söderling eyes upset

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
rafael nadal and robin soderling

Söderling beat Nadal in the fourth round of last year's Roland Garros

There is a certain symmetry to the proceedings: last year’s finalist is up against the four-time champion.

Robin Söderling, the dark horse of the French Open draw, faces the favourite, Rafael Nadal, in what promises to be an enthralling Roland Garros final.

If Söderling wins, he will break into the top five for the first time. If Nadal wins, he becomes the world No.1.

Söderling, 25, has beaten the champion at Roland Garros for two years in succession and also overcame Nadal in their last meeting at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

Nadal, however, has the chance to wreak revenge on the man who deprived him of a five-in-a-row streak in Paris last year.

But this season’s Nadal is a more complete player than the one who was forced off the Tour in 2009 with chronic tendonitis.

He attacks as much as he counter-punches, he takes the ball on the rise more often, approaches the net more effectively. His serve is more varied, more penetrating, more swinging than it once was.

In short, it is a frightening prospect both for Söderling and everyone else.

Nadal, 24, has been close to unbeatable on clay for his entire professional life. With the improvements he is now achieving—not to mention an undimmed desire to win—he may also be close to unbeatable on every other surface too.

But Söderling’s battling and hard fought five-set semi-final victory over Tomas Berdych suggests the Swede has developed the mentality of a champion since last year’s tournament.

With so much to gain for both players this year’s final looks set to be an engaging affair.

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