Nadal claims fifth French Open title in six years
Rafa Nadal reclaimed his French Open crown in emphatic style on Sunday when he battered Sweden's Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 to win the title for the fifth time in six years.
The 24-year-old Spaniard weathered some fierce early hitting by the powerful Soderling before taking command on Court Philippe Chatrier and surging to victory in two hours 18 minutes.
Nadal was in a miserly mood against the man who stunned him in last year's fourth round, his only defeat at Roland Garros, and Soderling's challenge fizzled out in disappointing fashion.
Soderling, last year's runner-up, could find no way through Nadal's defences and once he dropped serve in the fifth game of the first set the outcome seemed inevitable.
Image: Rafael Nadal holds aloft his trophy after winning the French Open final on Sunday
'It's the most emotional day in my career'
Nadal, who now has seven Grand Slam titles to his name, wrapped up victory when Soderling netted a backhand before collapsing on to his back, clenching his fists and then bursting into tears as he sat on his chair.
"It's the most emotional day in my career." Nadal told the crowd in French.
"I would like to congratulate Robin for his amazing two years here," Nadal said, in English. "I am sorry for today but I played my best match against you, if I didn't I would have been impossible to beat you."
Soderling said Nadal, who did not lose a set all fortnight, could go on to add to his five French Open titles.
"Five victories here is really amazing," the Swede said. "If you continue to play like this, you will for sure have the chance to win many more.
"I will come back next year. I hope it will be third time lucky for me."
Image: Rafael Nadal
Nadal only second player to win five times at Roland Garros
Nadal is just the second man to win Roland Garros at least five times and he is now within one victory of equalling Sweden's Bjorn Borg record of six titles.
Borg had predicted Soderling would win the final, while the consensus had been that if conditions were heavy, the Swede would have the advantage.
But despite a morning thunderstorm, the match began in warm, overcast conditions, with a packed crowd of just under 15,000 that included the Queen of Spain, Sofia, and music stars, Beyonce and Jay Z.
Immediately the pattern was set, Soderling slamming his flat groundstrokes so deep that Nadal was constantly forced to hit off the back foot.
Image: Former French Open champion Mary Pierce (right) chats with American musicians Beyonce (centre) and Jay-Z during the French Open men's final
Soderling wasted too many chances
But unlike last year, when Soderling barely missed and Nadal was below par, this time the Spaniard's retrieving was at its very best and the Swede was forced into mistakes.
Nadal saved a break point at 1-2 as Soderling fired a backhand long and then made the Swede pay immediately as he broke serve thanks to a backhand pass.
Soderling saved two break points in the seventh game to stay in touch but then wasted two chances to level at 4-4 through two errors on the backhand.
Nadal then forced three set points on the Soderling serve only to be thwarted by some brave hitting, but the Spaniard clinched the set on his own serve in the next game when Soderling missed a forehand, prompting a huge Nadal fist pump.
Image: Robin Soderling
The capacity crowd cheered for Soderling
Soderling continued to attack and in the second game of the second set, he worked his way to 15-40 on the Nadal serve, but the Spaniard saved both break points and then two more.
When the Swede sent a forehand wide in the fifth game, Nadal had the break and he repeated the feat two games later on his way to taking a two sets to love lead.
Any chance Soderling had of getting back into the match depended on a strong start to the third set but he gifted Nadal a break in the first game as another forehand slipped wide.
The capacity crowd, who had cheered for Soderling late in the first set and early in the second, went strangely quiet as Nadal closed in on victory.
And when Soderling netted a backhand, the title was the Spaniard's, prompting jubilant scenes.
Image: Rafael Nadal