LONDON, November 24 – Rafael Nadal was beaten in straight sets by Robin Soderling in his opening match at the ATP World Tour Finals on Monday, the Swede repeating his shock French Open win over the Spaniard.Soderling saw off Nadal 6-4, 6-4 at London’s O2 Arena in their Group B match at the season-ending tournament of the world’s top eight players.
Four-time French Open defending champion Nadal had had his 31-match winning streak there broken in May by Soderling, who in becoming the only man ever to beat Nadal at Roland Garros, went on to reach the final.
And the Swede repeated the upset with a tidy performance at the former Millennium Dome, at times giving the Australian Open champion the run-around on the medium-paced court.
"I was very nervous at the start but I got off to a great start," Soderling said.
"I managed to play really well on the important points and I really served well when I needed to.
"Winning against the world number two is not bad.
"It’s tough to keep on playing long rallies every time, because he’s a great fighter, and he’s moving really well. So I tried to keep the points short, and it worked."
Nadal said he did not go into the clash looking to get Soderling back for the French Open defeat.
"I don’t believe in revenge," the 23-year-old said.
"Every match is a different match. I went on court, tried my best as I did all my life. I didn’t think, not one second, on the Roland Garros match.
"I didn’t play really bad. But in the important moments, I didn’t have this calm, this necessary calm, to win these matches against the best players of the world."
In-form Soderling, the world number nine, broke into the top 10 just over a month ago and was the first reserve for this tournament. He was called up after US Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick withdrew due to a lingering knee injury.
The 25-year-old has won only one tournament this year, the Bastad clay court title in his homeland.
Nadal won the toss and chose to receive but the left-hander found himself 3-0 down within 10 minutes.
The Mallorcan pulled it back to 3-1, broke Soderling back then levelled the scores by taking the next game to love.
After Soderling held serve, two consecutive line call challenges saw the serving Nadal 0-30 down but he recovered to take the game.
The Swede won the next game to love, leaving Nadal needing to hold serve to stay in the set. Soderling won the deuce when his opponent fired long.
The first two games of the second set went with serve but then Nadal broke with a rare foray to the net.
However, Soderling was in fighting spirit and broke back, winning the game with a successful challenge on a baseline call.
The fifth game went to seven deuces, with Soderling finally converting an advantage at the sixth attempt.
The next three games went with serve to make it 4-4. Soderling then fought off a deuce to leave Nadal serving to stay in the match.
The Swede took the Spaniard to deuce and gained a first match point when Nadal shot narrowly wide. But Soderling hit just long to take it back to deuce.
The Swede went to match point again with a cross-court shot and won the contest when Nadal fired long.
Serbia’s defending champion Novak Djokovic and Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko are also in Group B, from which two go through to the semi-finals.