Sunday, May 31, 2009
Nadal ousted with first French defeat
PARIS -- Rafael Nadal's unbeaten run at the French Open is over.
The four-time defending champion lost to Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the fourth round Sunday, ending his record 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros.
"When one player plays bad, [he] must lose," Nadal said. "[It] was my fault. ... I didn't play my best tennis and for that reason I lose."
Soderling, seeded 23rd at this year's tournament, ran Nadal ragged on center court with his hard serve and booming forehand.
Need the scores from any match played in the French Open today? Results
"I played well today, but I think I played some even better matches in my career," said the 24-year-old Soderling, who called Nadal "the greatest clay-court player of all time."
"I worked good with my forehand, and my backhand worked well, as well. I worked my backhand flat and tried to go around and hit my forehand. I think I played exactly the way I wanted to play before the match. I served well, extremely well, and that really, really helped me today."
Nadal has dominated the French Open since his first match on the red clay at Roland Garros.
"He didn't surprise me because I know how he plays and how dangerous he can be," said Nadal, who said he failed to attack Soderling. "I didn't play aggressive."
In his 31 previous matches, he had lost only seven sets -- the last one coming against Roger Federer in the 2007 final.
"He can't feel good right now," Soderling said.
Nadal had won three of the last four major titles, missing out only on the U.S. Open. Because he won the Australian Open, he had been the only man with a chance to complete a Grand Slam.
He had also been trying to become the first man to win five straight French Open titles.
On Sunday, Soderling wouldn't be goaded into saying anything bad about Nadal.
"I've been answering these questions now for two years. I mean, I'm feeling pretty tired of this," Soderling said. "He's just another player on the tour."
Defending his Wimbledon title will be Nadal's next major goal, but that will come after a little rest and relaxation.
No. 3 seed Andy Murray dismissed Marin Cilic in three sets Sunday for his first French quarterfinals berth.
"Right now, my preparation is for the swimming pool at my house," joked Nadal, who was also trying to become the first man to win five straight French Open titles. "Give me three more days."
Andy Murray advanced to the quarterfinals with relative ease.
The third-seeded Murray beat No. 13 Marin Cilic of Croatia 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Sunday, giving the Briton the first four-match winning streak on clay in his career.
Cilic was treated by a trainer for right leg problems in the third set after taking a tumble while chasing a lob.
But Murray was better throughout the match.
He will play No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile for a semifinal berth.
Gonzalez became the first player to reach the quarterfinals, beating Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
Gonzalez, who reached the 2007 Australian Open final, ended the match with his 21st forehand winner. He finished with 50 winners and only 16 unforced errors.
"I tried to win every point," Gonzalez said. "And then I'm trying to not be risky if I don't need it. Maybe I got a break, and then I can start to hit my huge shots. ... When I have to use my shot, I use it, because I know I'm going to win the match with my forehand and my serve."
The 12th-seeded Chilean also reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros last year, but lost to eventual finalist Federer.
Hanescu reached the French Open quarterfinals in 2005 but also lost to Federer.
Gonzalez reached the semifinals at the two other clay-court tournaments he entered this year, but missed a pair of others with an ankle injury.