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.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
filmReview: In the face of all-round devastation, even Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appears a little puny
Arts and Entertainment
Bright lights, big city: Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles by dusk
books
News
i100
Sport
Harry Kane makes Paul Scholes' Premier League team of the season
footballPaul Scholes on the best players, managers and goals of the season - and the biggest disappointments
News
i100
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.

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club that later became synonymous with Hillsborough has dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor