Soderling in command over nervous Nadal

Given the weather that has been battering Britain for the last week, perhaps it was no surprise that lightning struck twice in London yesterday. Six months after Robin Soderling stunned the sporting world with his victory at the French Open over Rafael Nadal, who had never lost in 31 previous matches at Roland Garros, the Swede beat the Spaniard again in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena.

The fact that Soderling's 6-4, 6-4 victory was no major surprise tells you much about what has happened since their meeting on Parisian clay. Nadal, who took more than two months off after that defeat because of tendinitis in both knees, has not won a title since early May, while Soderling's career has taken off.

Nadal, who can still qualify for the semi-finals despite this defeat, insists that he is currently at the top of his game, pointing out that he has been enjoying the most successful autumn of his career.

While it is true that the Spaniard usually falters at this stage of the season, he still appears a long way short of the form that took him to No 1 in the world rankings last year. He repeatedly denies that he has lost weight – he says that is an illusion caused by the ditching of his trademark sleeveless shirts – but he looks less intimidating physically and his shots seem to lack their former bite.

A powerful man with a booming serve and thumping ground strokes, Soderling took the initiative from the start, racing into a 3-0 lead. Nadal broke back immediately, but at 4-5 put a forehand long on the Swede's first set point. Although Nadal made the first break in the second set, Soderling quickly restored parity and secured victory when he again broke as the Spaniard served at 4-5.

"I played OK, but in the important moments, I didn't have the necessary calm," Nadal said afterwards. "I made a few mistakes. I played shorter in the important moments and that was why he beat me. He's a big player on this surface."

Asked what he felt was lacking in his game, Nadal replied: "I think I must have said this 100 times. The second half of the year was difficult for me and I probably lost a little confidence and calm, but I am working really hard to come back at my best level. I think I'm not far away from my best."

Soderling is making his debut at the year-end finale and his face does not even appear on the posters at the entrance to the O2 Arena. The world No 9 was awarded a place in the field last week when Andy Roddick pulled out with injury.

Until his win over Nadal in Paris Soderling was regarded as a journeymen, though he has always performed well indoors. He reached the French Open final, losing to Roger Federer, and then improved on his previous best performances at Wimbledon and the US Open, reaching the fourth round and quarter-finals respectively. He has reached the last eight or better at his last six tournaments.

"I was hitting the ball well today," Soderling said. "I think that's how I have to play against Rafa to have a chance of beating him. It's tough to keep on playing these long rallies every time, because he's a great fighter and moves really well."

Nikolay Davydenko threatened to produce an upset in the day's second match when he took the first set off Novak Djokovic, but the world No 3 recovered to win 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 after two hours and 46 minutes. Djokovic, who beat Davydenko to win the title in Shanghai last year, has lost only once in the 20 matches he has played since the US Open.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
tech
Sport
footballManager attacks Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp after criticism of Diego Costa's apparent stamping
News
video
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore