Shock Nadal exit is boost for Murray
DEFENDING champion Rafael Nadal’s bid for a fifth successive French Open title ended abruptly yesterday in one of the biggest shocks in the tournament’s history.
The world No1 took a 31-match unbeaten run at Roland Garros into his clash with Robin Soderling, but was always on the back foot against the 23rd seed and slumped to a 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) defeat.
Nadal’s exit was a further boost for British No1 Andy Murray, who earlier beat 11th seed Marin Cilic in straight sets and had been due to meet the Spanish clay-court king in the semi-finals. It was also the second major scalp of the day, after women’s champion Ana Ivanovic lost in straight sets to ninth seed Victoria Azarenka.
Before yesterday Nadal had never tasted defeat at the French Open – a tournament that the 22-year-old has monopolised since his first appearance in 2005. The Mallorcan had not lost a set since the 2007 final against Roger Federer. But Soderling was in inspired form, finding the corners with unerring accuracy and sending the previously invincible Nadal scrambling repeatedly. He will now meet 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko in the quarter-finals.
Murray, meanwhile, faces a clash with 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez after becoming only the third British man ever to reach the last eight at Roland Garros.
The Scot, who had never been past the third round in Paris, clinically despatched Cilic 7-5, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 and, following Nadal’s exit, will fancy his chances of reaching a second career Grand Slam final.
“I always felt I could play well on clay. I just needed a bit of time to find my game,” said Murray. “The results have got better because I’ve played more matches. That’s nice but I’ll try to go further.”
Ivanovic saw her title defence crumble against Belarussian teenager Azarenka. The Serb, 21 and seeded eight, needed treatment to her neck during the 6-2, 6-3 defeat.