Sunday, May 31, 2009

Earthquake

Robin Soderling of Sweden celebrates defeating Rafael Nadal of Spain at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris May 31, 2009.
Reuters

Robin Soderling defeats Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(2).

He did exactly what I always thought it would take to beat Rafa at Roland Garros:

He hit him off the court.

That was about a 12 on the Richter scale as far as earthquakes go.

In defense of Soderling, who I realize few people like, he beat David Ferrer and Rafa back-to-back.

His performance today wasn't exactly a fluke.

He's always had the weapons to cause any player trouble on any surface, but he tends to choke big time against the elite.

In two matches (I consider Ferrer clay court elite), he did not choke.

I have to give him major props. As much as I hate choking, any player who holds his nerve and completes the task gets applause from me no matter who they take down.

Folks think this loss opens up the draw for Roger Federer.

It might.

But who else left in the draw can give Federer fits?

Andy Murray.

And the pressure on Federer to win this thing just increased tenfold.

::

51 comments:

Beth said...

This was definitely an earthquake. Of the biggest magnitude.

Pamela said...

How depressing.

Go Tsonga!!!! or um Davy.I would have wanted Federer to win, but I wanted him to beat Rafa to do it.

anonymous said...

Exactly, the idea to win against Nadal is to make him run maximum from side to side, to do extreme placing and defend really well. Soderling did exactly that. Kudos to him! Btw Murray will have to encounter Gonzalez first. Fernando Gonzalez is also currently on fire.

Karen said...

Craig, you are so right. Pressure right on Roger to win this thing. Oh Lordy, Lordy

María said...

oh God no, Murray winning this is like the worse scenario . It would officially become in the most depressing RG ever for me.
I can't even talk about Nadal yet.

Madhur said...

I really loved the way Soderling played. He was really playing with vengeance. Murray will be celebrating this loss. I would like Soderling to win the title or Murray. NOT FEDERER.
And my fellow Rafa fans, although in comparison to you guys I might be very neutral and I anyway always try to remain neutral, I am a RAFA fan, Still I have to give credit to Soderling for his win. He played amazing tennis. And for all my fellow Rafa fans, as much as I would like not to admit it, Rafa didn't not find his rhythm. He was not allowed to find his rhythm.
I felt so bad for Nadal though. I feel this is so surprising, I might really realize the event tomorrow morning!
This has been the toughest thing to watch, tennis wise!

Graf_sampras said...

Don't forget -- i always called Soderling, along with Ljubicic, Berdych, Davydenko, Blake -- as Roger's Guardians and Musketeers....

we should see s0derling revert to Form soon enough...

Graf_sampras said...

actually i always liked Soderling's game.

it is big power similar to Joachim Johansson's and i like that a lot.

what I DOn"T like is his ATTITUDE .

he is FEARLESS and even DISRESPECTFUL towards nadal


who happens to be the superior of Roger ....

but he behaves like a kitten to his lord and master roger.

that's not just craven and unprofessional, it even borders on the unethical.

elagio said...

is this one of the most eliminating slams in recent years? Ana Ivanovic, Nadal, Djokovic, V. Williams, Dementieva... I am disappointed.

My favorite to win on men's is Tsonga! Wouldn't mind Federer, Davydenko, or Gonzales though, but I think it will be Federer this time.

Women's side: can anyone stop Safina on clay?

Helen W said...

Madhur, congrats on your even-handed approach. Thanks for your positive post.

Graf_sampras said...

i don't like it when so-called PROFESSIONALS


behave IN MATCHES against some players disrespectfully -- or arrogantly enough that they can give them hell and a match and win...
and then turn around like slaves to another player because
...as james blake says of roger :

"no one really wants to take him down because he is so NICE".......

if they are going to be "nasty" to ONE opponent enough to play and win like champions -- they ought to do the same everywhere against anyone.

otherwise they deserve no respect.

Pamela said...

Any and everyone left in the draw except Gonzalez. I'd get sick with that, like physically ill.

anonymous said...

Federer is the best player. People have only seen Nadal defeat Roger, they haven't seen him play when he was No.1 for 237 weeks. The way he played on 30th May again Paul Henri Mathieu 2nd set onwards, that's his true form. THE KING WILL RETURN. 14 GRAND SLAMS, ANY SURFACE. LONG LIVE THE KING. I always felt Nadal was overrated. Federer's game has the most natural variety, beauty and diversity. Rarely has such a single sportsman dominated a sport for so-long. Even if he does't win the French Open this time, he's the greatest player ever. Who else has reached 19 consecutive grand slam semifinals? But I respect Nadal a lot, besides he's a very humble and sporty guy and certainly deserves No.1 ranking today. But Federer is the all time great, THE MAN to adore.

Beth said...

I don't think Federer has this in the bag at all just because Nadal lost. I still think there are plenty of hurdles for him. Sure he would be the favorite now but I don't think there are any guarantees. We'll see.....

Mad Professah said...

Tsonga, baby!! This is the most exiting French Open in years...

I think Raja has already had pressure lifted OFF his shoulders...

Rafa losing at the French is a win-win for Raja. Period.

He has TWO 5-time streaks (US Open, still alive) and Wimbledon (missed a 6th by the closest of margins last year).

Wimbledon 2009 should be FASCINATING.

rabbit said...

RG Final is a long way off for Roger. And he is professional enough not to let this loss of Rafa get to his head.

Also, honestly, in this season, as a Roger fan, I'd have preferred him to play Rafa in the finals rather than Murray. The dynamic in the Federer-Murray matches is a little weird nowadays.

But anyways, even getting to the final will be a challenge. With all the upsets, I'm sure everyone is now gunning to take Roger down.

Sorry, Rafa fans. :( I know exactly how you feel.

And lastly, Graf_Sampras, the relationship between Federer and Soderling is not that warm and cordial either. I think Soderling is one of the few players that is universally ill-liked among the players.

charags said...

This "may" pave King Fed's path to the elusive FO, but it's no certainty.

But it definitely slashes away 2000 points from the lead!

charags said...

How many points does Nadal get to get up to this round?

WJTW said...

I came home when they were playing the forth set. Nadal was at 5-4 against Soderling. I saw that Soderling had already won 2 sets, but was sure Nadal could win and forth set and bring it to a fifth. Sadly, it didn't happen. My heart was audibly pumping at that tie-break...

Funny how both Federer and Nadal "only" managed to tie Borg's records for consecutive wins at Wimbledon and Roland Garros respectively, but not surpass them.

Madhur said...

I am going to pen my emotions down. Give Rafa a tribute through my blog. I feel so sorry for him. Like I said I try to be neutral, but when you see some-one who has consistently given his heart and soul to tennis, it kind of hurts you when you see them fall, especially at a venue, which they own.
So all Rafa fans, please visit my blog as and when you find time. I will write the post soon,
Madhur Dutta
www.discusstennos.wordpress.com

P.S - Thanks Craig for hosting this open thread, it is so cool, cause even though I'm alone at home watching the matches, because of this thread it feels like I am watching with everyone else. Thanks

vw said...

Murray Gonzo H2H 1-1

Beth said...

Really beautiful post match quote from Rafa:

“You need a defeat to give value to your victories. It's the end of the road and I have to accept my defeat as I accepted my victories: with calm. I have to stay cool‑headed to try to analyse what I did wrong. I need to learn, and you learn more when you lose than when you win. I need to work on those points where I wasn't good, and from there try and do better for my next tournament.”

Vamos Rafa and words of a true champion.

Helen W said...

... and let us not forget André Roddique who is still in the mix ...

J said...

I am not a Nadal fan, but he is a great, great, great champion, and I have profound respect for him. His words ring true for me right now, that this loss highlights his greatness. For me it is kind of nice to know he is human; I know that is no consolation to his fans, though. I hope he will take a few well deserved days off, though knowing him he is probably on the practice court *right now*.

indranni said...

Just got home and I feel so broken-hearted for Rafa. I wanted so badly for him to have that unique 5 consequtive French Opens record that no one else has, and there was a teeny little part of me that was barely daring to hope I might see him do a grandslam. I had to keep reminding myself to be like Rafa and not look so far ahead....and this is why. There's no certainty in life. It can all get derailed in a heartbeat.

And as for that Rafa quote from Beth, what an wise old soul he has already at 23! If he can accept such a loss with gracefulness, I guess as a fan I need to try to do the same.

J said...

So weird that it was only one month ago (almost exactly) that Soderling was trying to cheat Nadal, and still got demolished 1 and 0 at Rome.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CnX6k0snxA

pompelmo said...

Sorry but there is no equation. Federer is winning this thing, completing the career grand slam. He will play free of the looming humiliation at a possible final against Nadal, so he'll regroup and finish this is off with the newfound motivation.

Craig Hickman said...

Helen,

If André Roddique wins the French Open I'll fast for a month.

Craig Hickman said...

The last two times Haas was scheduled to play Federer, he offered up a walkover.

If Haas actually takes the court tomorrow....

edma1022 said...

You are so right, Craig. The pressure on RF now is tremendous. Not sure whether that is a good thing.

I'm watching the NBC replay right now. I came from church checking on my blackberry and couldn't believe the news. *sigh*

Sorry, Pam/Helen/Beth. Believe me, if I know RF will get thru to the finals (and that's not a lock yet), I'd rather he face Nadal. Believe me when I say it doesn't hurt as a RF fan to see him lose to a champion like Nadal.

tangerine said...

Sad about Rafa's loss but all good things must come to an end. Something has been wrong in Team Rafa's camp for a while now, I don't know what's going on but Rafa's been moody and unfocused for weeks now. Perhaps the enormous pressure of defending his clay god status became too much?

For the love of all things good and clay, Federer must win this title. I don't think I could handle it if someone like Soderling, Murray, or Davydenko sneaked in to win this title. Ugh! I hope Roger can step up now, everyone is assuming the title is his now but it's still no gimmee.

And hey, if André Roddique decides he wants to fluke a second slam win now would be the time to do it. ;)

pompelmo said...

Roddick does not have the game to beat Federer. Old Haas is not beating Federer, so even if he gets past Monfils, Roddick will have to beat Federer. That is not happening.

Craig Hickman said...

As of several hours ago, Soderling wasn't beating Rafa either.

Just saying.

Craig Hickman said...

Tangy, would you really not want to see one of the Frenchman win this title on home soil?

I sure would.

There are only two players I don't want to see hoist the trophy.

Helen W said...

tangerine, I agree with you that something has been lacking in Camp Rafa for quite some time. Maybe it's just part of life's ebb and flow, but he has lost some of his exuberance and energy. I recall rumours circulating in Miami (from Peter Bodo) about something in his personal life, but who knows. Nothing more ever came from that.

oddman said...

Well, well. Just got in and digesting the news here. Congrats Soderling, even though I detested you for your antics in 2007. Sounds like the guy played out of his tree, and from Rafa's presser, he was not anywhere near his own tree.

Anyone can lose to anyone, no? Absolutely. I love Rafa's quote, and believe in it. Did some think Fed had AO 08 or 09 locked up? Did many think Rafa had this one locked too?

Sigh. I'm a little hurt, but thanks to Beth for posting that bit of Rafa's interview for me. That's pure Tio Toni talking there, what a great acktitude, Rafa. May you never lose that. Go home to your swimming pool, Rafa, and catch some fish, and get over this hard loss. Wimby beckons, and you're the defending champ there.

Interesting now, what will happen. You guys realize 10 years ago, Andre Agassi did something he thought he'd never be able to do, hurt shoulder and all, and walked away with the Coupe (there were no teethmarks on it then, lol). Man, would I love to see another American do that come next Sunday. IAC, the whole tournament has been spun around into a new shape today.

Au revoir, mon petit Rafito! RG won't be the same without you.

PeytonAllen said...

First off, can we put an end to NBC airing tennis? It’s absurd the match is on at 3 pm est when the entire world has known of the result since 12. And as I’m trying to watch the match now, the commercials after every game are so annoying.

I actually thought Robin would win before the match.

Okay, yeah right.

What a stunner. Came home from church and checked the ‘net. Couldn’t believe it.

You know I can’t imagine Soderling’s game was so much different than in Rome. Did he find the zone a bit more? Probably. What I’ve seen (I quit watching due to NBC) he just crushed everything. He’s of the ilk that give Nadal problems: Tall, flat hitting middle of the road players. Guys like Blake, etc, who just have nothing to lose but hit out on every shot.

I did think this was the year that Nadal would be taken to 5 sets, but I never thought he’d be the one that would fail to hold up his end of the bargain. We knew sooner or later he’d lose in Paris, and it was probably a pipe dream to think that’d happen in his late 20’s, or that he’d retire say at 27 or 28 without ever having lost. It was a remarkable run and it ends when he’s just 22 years-old.

I echo the sentiments that are wondering what’s wrong with the beast. In Miami he said, “sometimes you lose because of personal reasons,” and then Bodo picked up on it. Maybe this push from his handlers to make Rafa into a man robbed him of some of his boyish charms. Where was the fight today? Where was the energy? Rafa was flat. It happens. Federer in his great runs dodged some bullets, it’s one of the greatest feats of his dominance. But, Nadal was not himself.

I disagree about the Madrid theory that people ‘figured out’ how to play him. It took 5 years?

Bullshit.

He ran into a buzz saw today, but more importantly the well that was Nadal’s soul ran dry. For the first time in Paris, or in a big match, he had nothing inside to fall back on.

Technically speaking, it’s the same old bad habits. He wasn’t aggressive. He often just looped his return of serves back, etc. etc. This may actually be good for Nadal. He gets to gameplan the next stage of his career. His serve has to be better. He has to flatten out his shots more often. All these things he knows, but maybe today is the last time he’ll have to be reminded of them.

Who wins?

I’m not sold on Federer. I like Wilander’s comment that "all the players are having a beer now."

Nobody here has mentioned the one player that’s most likely to win now.

Gael Monfils.

A deep Roddick run would be crack, but most likely it’s Monfils/Murray.

And I agree with the comment that Wimbledon just became the ticket of the summer. What will Nadal look like the first time he steps on court post-Soderling bombshell? Interesting!

And to Nadal fans: he'll be back in Paris.

Graf_sampras said...

as I said the UNSPOKEN, as of YET (as always these things take time before they gel and people look back and see what they really were) underlying "elephant in the room" in this potential of roger federer winning and "completing the slam"

is -- if follows a pattern of his career:

he strides in EXACTLY at the wrong time for those that severaly threaten him....handed to him by those that have demonstrated themselves as either simply inferior competition over-all or acting like slaves.

he MUST win it - because the underlying context is:

nadal did not play well enough to take care of his own and couldn't "place myself in position"

(a favorite roger saying).....

and while that is nadal's FAULT - and of course to soderling's credit to take advantage of the vulnerability --

EVERYONE knows who OWNS roger federer.

and which players roger OWNS in his remaining rounds...notwithstanding murray's very RECENT surge ....on the most alien surface to murray.

if Roger Wins his 14th - it is a great accomplishment.

But it will always have the accompanying "elephant in the room"......."IN THE ABSENCE OF NADAL".

as easily as "the best player of his generation was only second to his number 2 nadal".

and -- 50 years from now --

when people look back and look in "awe" at roger's accomplishments -- and study the history -- they TOO will learn what WE SAW in his "era".....


all of the above.

Graf_sampras said...

it would be something like being a "war president" without having gone TO war.

like georgy boy who "defended the USA from the bad, ferocious, dastardly Communist Vietnamese" by "flying jetplanes" in the Airspaces of Texas -- on paper only....

ROger Federer in his career is like a player who capitalizes on weaknesses of the opponent. that is a good tactic and strategy in itself naturally...

but it is often more associated as the tactic from the point of being the WEAKER protagonist rather than as teh STRONGER rival.

in the case of roger's career = he has built his majors career by "positioning" himself (untintionally of course) -

to be at the advantageous position when the "OPPONENT" -- TENNIS COMPETITIVENESS --towards roger

is WEAKENED...whether by old age, burn out, injuries, repeated absences due to setbacks, or as in this case -- and upset of threats to roger.



the loss of nadal is such an example and sums up the holes pockmarking roger's "greatness" and "glory".

Helen W said...

Peyton Allen I too sense that Rafa is just drained. He is so mentally strong that we have come to take it for granted that he can come out on court match after match after match and dig deeper into his soul than most of us have ever had to do once or twice in our lives.

Will this loss have a big effect on his confidence going forward? I think that very possible, but we shall see.

Graf_sampras said...

actually roger is the most over-rated...far more than nadal.

if anything NADAL is the main player that gave SUBSTANCE of COMPETITION to the tour around roger federer.

as Charles barkley NBA star said of those "around roger" outside of nadal (when murrya wasn't really a factor , nor djokovic)

"these players around this federer....the way they act and talk around him..you'd think they want to bed him....don't they realize that he's taking food off of his plate? what the HELL IS WRONG WITH THEM?!"

of course nadal's achievements DURING the dominance of roger, outside of roger and OVER roger...

to the point of making roger cry in public ....

SAYS EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW.

"the greatest player ever"


is Lord and master over his weak competition of old men, injured ones (take a look at HAAS' career for one, nevermind andre the retired) -- mentally incompetent ones..etc...


but a spaniard beat him up THAT bad on ALL surfaces? n the MIDDLE of roger's OWN dominance?


he's lucky - as usual -- one of his guardians, soderling, played well enough to take down a nadal during what turned out to be a bad day EVEN for nadal.


Roger - in this fo - as in just abotu EVERY major he has won DEPENDS on such things.

make no mistake about THAT!

tangerine said...

Craig I wouldn't mind seeing anybody win other than Murray, Davydenko, and Soderling. One of the Frenchies winning would be fine with me.

I agree that the pressure on Roger to win just got a lot heavier but I think he can handle it.

Soderling played out of his skin today. He has never done that twice in a row, I think he will have the usual "giant killer" let down and lose in the next round.

Helen, something's up with Rafa and has been for a while now. I hope eventually he will overcome whatever it is that's eating him.

Contrary to what others have been saying on other messageboards, I do not believe that this is the end of Rafa's dominance on clay, not by a long shot. This is just a blip, he has many other RG titles still in him. Rafa does not walk around with a sense of entitlement about him, I think he will accept the loss, recover, and move forward much easier than Roger has been able to do.

Graf_sampras said...

He ran into a buzz saw today, but more importantly the well that was Nadal’s soul ran dry. For the first time in Paris, or in a big match, he had nothing inside to fall back on.

Technically speaking, it’s the same old bad habits. He wasn’t aggressive. He often just looped his return of serves back, etc. etc. This may actually be good for Nadal. He gets to gameplan the next stage of his career. His serve has to be better. He has to flatten out his shots more often. All these things he knows, but maybe today is the last time he’ll have to be reminded of them.

=========


BRILLIANTLY analyzed by Peytonallen.


it was my assessment too.

too many short balls, in sum.

that was just the old habits of nadal - remember - when he still had no "serve"..and was mainly waiting for chances to hit his forehand the proper way , which was STILL a testament to his FIRE,,,which was obviousoly lacking today also.

he's experiencing a bit of aburnout, that's clear.

i actually sensed or just suspected - this morning that he wouldn't win. there was something uncharacteristically ....
"running on automatic" in his last rounds..and i thought that was not going to be enough against a BIG server that is aggressive.

maybe all those silly other intrusions by the Drug Council also had their effects...considering that those things interfere with a player's equanimity and rest and naturally might have put the players up all night discussing and being ANGRY with their families and all that.

that could also play a part u know.


but nevermind.

good analysis above by Peytonallen.

Helen W said...

tangerine I don't give Davydenko much of a chance, but I do think Murray has one. I suspect Soderling will not be able to maintain his level enough to win. Tsonga and Monfils have a chance -- wish I felt that Andy Roddick had a better chance, but I wouldn't write him off.

I've been avoiding the message boards and do not plan to venture there for some time, but I really do not see Rafa's clay dominance ending, partly because I don't think he has been dominating through players being intimidated by him; he's been dominant because of his play.

Craig Hickman said...

Soderling played out of his mind against Ferrer day before last. Today was the day I expected a letdown and look what happened.

I'm not naming Soderling the winner. His shots can falter at any moment.

But if they stay in the court...

He has looked ready for war at this event.

I'm reminded of Martin Verkerk, another tall Nordic player with nothing to lose and no expectations to win who took the surface out of his tennis and just hit, hit, hit his way to the final. Had his father stayed home instead of traveling to Paris for the first time in the fortnight to watch his son contest a Roland Garros final, I'm afraid Ferrero would be Slamless.

Unlike the Dutchman, the Swede has wins over each player left in the top half of the draw.

This isn't exactly a prediction, but if Soderling contests the final, you heard it right here.

PeytonAllen said...

If memory serves, Soderling had a good shot a few years ago to break Federer's streak on grass. Craig is right, the game is huge.

I think if Nadal were 25 or older it'd be true to worry about how the loss will affect his career. One thing to remember is he's been balls out since he was 16 on tour. Unlike any of his peers he didn't ease into his career. We never had to say, "the results will come when he emotionally matures."

Rafa beat Fed in Miami and a man. This is the first time he's taken a breath. Can't blame him for being tired.

Very similar to Hewitt. Had the world on their shoulders by 22.

Difference is (or i guess it remains to be seen) the game changed and Leyton was over matched. And Roger Federer happened.

Rafa has to recharge. I think the extra week off will actually help.

The great ones fail. Borg lost twice at the FO. Sampras had his run on grass interrupted. It happens. I think if anything Fed set a standard that's hard to live up to.

Graf_sampras said...

what was definitely missing from rafa today - apart from the usual fire - was what HE calls "the long ball" DEPTH and penetration.

Soderling did very well in being able to be aggressive and keeping it up.

Helen W said...

Yes, G_S he hit way too many short balls, and he missed way too many easy forehands. But those errors are, I believe, what he does when he is out of sorts and can't find his game. They are a symptom but not the disease.

Graf_sampras said...

PeytonAllen said...

If memory serves, Soderling had a good shot a few years ago to break Federer's streak on grass. Craig is right, the game is huge.

I think if Nadal were 25 or older it'd be true to worry about how the loss will affect his career. One thing to remember is he's been balls out since he was 16 on tour. Unlike any of his peers he didn't ease into his career. We never had to say, "the results will come when he emotionally matures."

Rafa beat Fed in Miami and a man. This is the first time he's taken a breath. Can't blame him for being tired.

Very similar to Hewitt. Had the world on their shoulders by 22.

Difference is (or i guess it remains to be seen) the game changed and Leyton was over matched. And Roger Federer happened.

Rafa has to recharge. I think the extra week off will actually help.

The great ones fail. Borg lost twice at the FO. Sampras had his run on grass interrupted. It happens. I think if anything Fed set a standard that's hard to live up to.

Sun May 31, 09:16:00 PM

========

Another EXCELLENT perspective...following another EXCELLENT perspective by Craighickman.

true that Soderling always had one of the big games around. his problem has been he was behaving and acting like a slave to roger and almost too obviously "saves" his best fighting against Nadal who ....just happens to be a threat to Roger whom Soderling in 2007 openly called "my friend" as if to SPITE nadal during that period of some tension between the two in Davis Cup and elsewhere.

what's up with THAT kind of "professionalism?"

someone with such a huge , effective game like his -- and he for several years has been SATISFIED with being a FOIL for "my friend" -- liek wawrinka, berdych, ljubicic...

while gloating about HIS wins over someone who happens to put roger "my friend" TOO OFTEN on the spotlight in rafa's victories?

as blake says:

"no one really wants to take down roger because he is so NICE?" THAT"S IT?

do you have someone like muhammad ali losing to frazier because Joe is "so nice?"

or because "i respect him so much with his accomplishments?"

what the HECK kind of mentality has been going around anyway with many of these players?!

they're so frightened and reluctant to DISTURB roger's march to glory because the pundits said so for years that it's roger's destiny or some garbage like that, for some unspoken fear of being seen as "party poopers"? rather than be seen as "classy" because Roger supposedly DEFINES tennis and everyone has to BEHAVE politely..by playing their "proper roles" as roger's foils , attendants , and oncourt Marionettes?

roflmao!

what the hell are these guys about anyway?

oddman said...

MadProf said:
'...One thing to remember is he's been balls out since he was 16 on tour.'

You're right. I hadn't thought of that, but it is true. No one can sustain that kind of intensity (and balls out is such an apt description too) forever.

Yep, Rafa, take that $%$# break, go fishing, get on your boat and sail around your Mediterranean waters, decompress.. you probably need it, young man.

oddman said...

OH! Excuse, me, that wasn't MadProf's comment, but PeytonAllen's ... sorry! It was a great one, at any rate.