The Reuters global sports blog
It wasn’t supposed to be a question of ‘if’ but rather how convincingly Rafael Nadal would clinch his record fifth successive French Open title.
But the baseline behemoth, for so long indestructible at Roland Garros, turned out to be mere flesh and blood, mere forehands and backhands as his unbeaten record at the capital of claycourt tennis came to an inglorious end.
The superman who had boasted a 31-0 record before Sunday did not lose his crown to his great rival Roger Federer in a final befitting the gravity of the defeat. Instead he slumped to an unassuming Swede: one he had beaten 6-1 6-0 the last time they had met on clay, in Rome four weeks ago.
Before this week Robin Soderling had never advanced beyond the third round of a grand slam tournament but on centre stage in Paris he proved his nerve was not to be questioned.
I have never been a big fan of Maria Sharapova’s tennis. I prefer fellow Russian Dinara Safina, who I like to nickname ‘Marata’ (her brother being Marat Safin).
Many men will prefer Sharapova for reasons other than tennis but Safina can be more enjoyable to watch on court, especially when it’s clay.
How about: The patient counter puncher who’s happy to trade blows from the baseline until his opponent makes an error then pounces with an angled drive or pinpoint passing shot.
But hang on a sec … Couldn’t that describe Andy Murray’s game? The player whose passive style has brought so much success on hardcourts and yet the same man who looks about as at home on a clay court as I do on the Cresta Run?