Rafael Nadal destroys Robin Soderling to reach last four

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The Independent Online

Rafael Nadal gave the most comprehensive of answers to questions about his form as he destroyed Robin Soderling to reach the semi-finals of the French Open.

Gunning for a sixth Roland Garros title, the Spaniard had laboured on route to the last eight, joining reporters in acknowledging his performances have been well below par.

But playing the man he beat in the final a year ago seemed to bring the best out of the world number one, and he brushed him aside in straight sets 6-4 6-1 7-6 (7/3) to book a last-four meeting with Andy Murray.

Nadal, who lost to Soderling when injured at the same stage in 2009, took charge of this last-eight contest from the first point and rarely looked back.

He broke Soderling's serve in the first game and did so again in the third, only for Soderling to break back himself and then save a break point in the next game.

But Nadal did not allow him to break again and saw out the first set 6-4 when Soderling crunched a forehand into the net.

Soderling is often at his best when he frees his arms and plays his shots and he went on the offensive at the start of the second set but, after winning the first game on serve, he lost six on the bounce to trail 2-0.

A cross-court backhand winner showed that Nadal was in the groove and, when he slammed a trademark forehand down the line in the third game, it was clear he was going to take some stopping.

He stayed in a wonderful rally at the start of the third set and chased a drop shot to set up a smash that brought the crowd to their feet and, when he broke, it looked like a procession to the finish.

But Soderling broke back himself to level things up and then saved a break point, before earning the chance to put himself in command of the set himself.

He had and lost three break points that would have allowed him to serve for the set and Nadal took it to a tie-break, winning 7/3 and celebrating wildly afterwards.