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French Open Day Eight Images

June 1, 2009 13:05 IST

King Nadal's Paris crown finally slips



Four-times champion Rafael Nadal was knocked out in the fourth round of the French Open on Sunday, beaten 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 by Sweden's Robin Soderling in one the biggest shocks ever seen at Roland Garros.

The world number one, who was seeking a record fifth successive title, had taken a 31-0 record into the contest as he had not lost a match at the claycourt grand slam since his Paris debut in 2005.

Soderling paid little attention to the script as he brought the world number one down on his knees in a 3-1/2 hour tussle.

"I have to accept with the same calm when I win than when I lose. After four years, I lose here, and the season continues," a gracious Nadal told a news conference.

Nadal, who had thrashed Soderling 6-1 6-0 in Rome last month, said he could not keep his nerve in they moments of the match.

"Sure, he did well. He did very well but I didn't play my best tennis. I didn't play my tennis, and for that reason I lose. That's it," he said.

"I was not calm enough to face the important points, so I had to fight. But sometimes fighting is not enough. You have to play a good level of tennis.

"Sometimes people think I win because I'm physically fit, but, no. When I win, it's because I play well, and that wasn't the case today."

Image: Rafael Nadal
Photographs: Reuters

Giant-killer Soderling waiting for Borg to thank him

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Robin Soderling was barely known outside tennis circles but the disarming Swede played the match of his life to humble arguably the greatest ever claycourter after 3-1/2 hours of high drama.

Soderling left the world number one and a capacity crowd on Philippe Chatrier Court flabbergasted as he handed the Spaniard his first defeat at Roland Garros and left his dreams of a record fifth consecutive title in tatters.

A disbelieving crowd watched in fascination as the 22-year-old was finally brought to his knees when his attempt at an angled volley looped wide.

As Soderling sealed the champion's fate, the 23rd seed stretched his arms wide open to lap up the applause from the hollering fans before hurling his racket high into the stands.

"I told myself this is just another match," said the jubilant 23rd seed, who will next face Russian Nikolay Davydenko.

"All the time, I was trying to play as if it was a training session. When I was 4-1 up in the tiebreak, I started to believe.

"I tried to keep telling myself I had to believe. I played a great match. If he thinks he plays bad, that's his choice."

After sending shockwaves through the tennis world, Soderling was expecting a message of thanks from fellow Swede Bjorn Borg.

"I'm expecting a SMS. I'm not going to call him. Hopefully he will call me. That would be great," Soderling told a news conference.

Borg won the French Open six times, in 1974-75 and from 1978 to 81, winning 28 matches in his second winning streak.

Nadal's defeat ensured the 22-year-old Spaniard would have to be content with sharing the record of winning four Paris titles in a row with Borg -- at least for now.

Image: Robin Soderling
Photographs: Reuters
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Ivanovic blames dizziness for defeat

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Holder Ana Ivanovic relinquished her French Open crown after suffering dizzy spells in a 6-2, 6-3 defeat by Belarussian teenager Victoria Azarenka on Sunday.

The Serb, who has suffered a dip in form since winning at Roland Garros last year and has slipped from number one to eighth in the world, said she had started to feel unwell after the first point in the fourth game when she was a break down.

"I just suddenly started feeling so dizzy, and I completely lost my balance," Ivanovic told a news conference after the fourth-round defeat.

"Ever since then it was really hard. I struggled with looking up. I started feeling very dizzy, and I was struggling a little bit to find my balance."

After struggling with a knee injury before the claycourt grand slam and with rivals Dinara Safina and Svetlana Kuznetsova in blistering form, Ivanovic's departure was never going to make the sort of splash men's champion Rafael Nadal's exit did.

Image: Ana Ivanovic
Photographs: Reuters
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Azarenka reaches her first grand slam quarter-final

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The ninth-seeded Azarenka, who has won three titles this year, took command after breaking in the third game and clinched the first set when Ivanovic's forehand clipped the netcord and bounced back into her side of the court.

"I don't know if I can say that I'm surprised that I beat Ana, because I think I deserve to beat her. I played very well," said Azarenka. "I didn't let her play her game. I was just being I think too aggressive.

"It's the first time I ever made the quarter-finals (of a grand slam). It's something really big for me. It's a new step, and I'm just really looking forward for the challenge to see how well I with do in my next step."

The 19-year-old Belarussian surged to a 5-2 lead in the second before Ivanovic, her title hanging by a thread, fought back with a couple of excellent passing shots and a dropshot to break.

Despite the crowd cheering "Ana, Ana", her resistance was short-lived as Azarenka served out the match to set up a quarter-final against world number one Safina, who has torn through the draw dropping just five games along the way.

"She was just killing people so far," said Azarenka. "I just need to get ready, really well and play my best tennis to beat her."

Image: Victoria Azarenka
Photographs: Reuters
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Sharapova hobbles into last eight

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Russian Maria Sharapova kept alive her French Open dream on Sunday when the Russian reached the quarter-finals with a 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 victory over China's Li Na.

The former world number one, who is on a comeback trail following a nine-month injury layoff, will meet Slovak 20th seed Dominika Cibulkova for a place in the last four.

Sharapova, who has dropped to 102nd in the WTA rankings and has needed three sets to advance from each round, dropped serve twice but broke three times to take the opening set before fading away in the second.

Three-times grand slam champion Sharapova took a medical time out to have her left thigh treated, broke decisively in the seventh game before wrapping up the win after two hours 13 minutes on her first match point.

Sharapova will be glad to have survived since she produced eight double faults and 33 unforced errors during a scrappy contest.

Image: Maria Sharapova
Photographs: Reuters
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