Sunday, June 6, 2010
It was a pleasure to watch Rafa at his best as he gave a great exhibition of clay court play to win his fifth French open. Soderling too played reasonably well, but when Rafa plays at his best, it is next to impossible to defeat him on clay.
Just like a true champion, Rafa raised his game for the final and that proved to be too much for Soderling. First of all, Soderling didn't get too many short returns to smash his big forehands. The key factor of the match though, was Nadal's retrieving skills and of course, the amount of top spin he could generate of his forehand. I do remember, Nadal coming up with couple of passes in the second set which was breathtaking to watch as he was about six metres behind the baseline yet, was able to hit couple of passes on the run and I do believe that was the moment when Soderling's chances of winning the match went up in smoke as it looked like those couple of shots, just took the wind out of his sails. Rafa's exemplary retrieving skills also meant that Soderling was made to play the extra ball and in the end, he usually would lose patience and make the unforced error.
If I look at the statistics for the match, it is clear that Rafa dominated the final. His domination can be seen by the fact that he only made 16 unforced errors and that is when one thinks he is at his best. Until the final match, he was making a few uncharacteristic unforced errors, but in the final he didn't. As expected, he also got a lot of first serves in and in the final set his first serve percentage was over 90%! Soderling though, served at just 56% in the match which wasn't good enough. Another interesting fact was Soderling couldn't convert even one of the eight break point chances he had but Rafa was able to convert four of the 12 break point chances he got.
So, one can say that Rafa seems to be back at his best though, has to be careful about his schedule and look after his knees. Soderling had a wonderful tournament, but just like last year, lost at the final hurdle. He has a big serve and his ground-shots have excellent depth, but perhaps needs to work on his footwork. He would be no doubt be a huge threat on hard courts.
Finally, I would like to again congratulate the great player from Mallorca for playing some exhilarating tennis and winning his fifth title at Roland Garros.