Nadal Wins 5th French Open - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Nadal Wins 5th French Open

PARIS (AP) - Accustomed to being on the move, Rafael Nadal sat

restlessly during a changeover one game from his fifth French Open

title.

He jiggled his legs, took two bites of a banana, toweled off his

arms and face, then rose and finished the job. Soon he was back in

the chair and sobbing into the towel, overcome with the emotion

that accompanied his accomplishment.

The relentless Spaniard reclaimed his crown Sunday as the King

of Clay, avenging his lone Roland Garros defeat by beating Robin

Soderling 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

"It's the most emotional day in my career," Nadal told the

crowd in French during the trophy ceremony.

His bad memories of 2009 included not only an upset loss to

Soderling at Roland Garros, but the separation of his parents and

knee tendinitis that contributed to a prolonged slump.

The victory ended his longest Grand Slam drought since winning

his first major title at Roland Garros in 2005.

Seeded No. 2, Nadal won with dogged defense, chasing down shots

all over the court. He swept seven consecutive games midway through

the match and held every serve, saving all eight break points he

faced.

Nadal improved to 38-1 at Roland Garros, with the only loss to

Soderling in the fourth round a year ago.

"I played my best match against you," Nadal told the

big-swinging Swede during the trophy ceremony. "If not, it's going

to be impossible to beat you."

Nadal became the second man to win the French Open at least five

times, and next year he'll have a chance to match Bjorn Borg's

record of six titles.

"It's really impressive," Soderling told Nadal. "If you

continue like this, you will sure have the chance to win many

more."

With the victory, Nadal will also reclaim the No. 1 ranking

Monday, supplanting Roger Federer.

Soderling, who has yet to win a major title, finished as the

runner-up for the second year in a row. In 2009 he lost in the

final to Federer.

"I love this tournament," he said. "I will come back next

year, and I hope I'll be third time lucky then."

When Soderling's final shot landed in the net, Nadal slid onto

his back, threw up his fists and rose, shaking from his hair the

clay he loves. When he sat down, he began to cry.

"I faced in the final an extremely tough opponent," Nadal

said. "We played at a high level. Now I'm very happy."

The weather was mild and mostly cloudy - a nice day to go

running, and Nadal did plenty of it. Playing farther behind the

baseline than in their match last year, he skidded across the clay

and lunged to dig shots out of the corners, repeatedly extending

points until Soderling finally misfired.

Soderling tried to win points quickly and sometimes did, but

most of the long rallies went Nadal's way. Before the first set

ended, the Swede was panting between points.

To compound Soderling's woes, he had an off day with his serve,

his biggest weapon. He totaled only seven aces, the same number

 

Nadal

Nadal's march to his seventh Grand Slam title was deliberate

only between points. Advised by the chair umpire he was taking too

much time with his methodical ritual before serving, Nadal

responded, "Thank you," and slightly picked up the pace.

Nadal's persistence paid off big early in the second set. Facing

a break point, he retrieved shots from both corners and punched

back a Soderling slam, then charged forward and hit a deft drop

volley for a winner. The stadium shook with a roar, and Nadal threw

an uppercut accompanied by a leg kick.

Another eye-popping sequence came three games later. Nadal slid

into the corner beyond the doubles service line to hit a forehand

winner that left Soderling shaking his head. On the next point,

Nadal

crosscourt for another winner.

Those points helped Nadal break at love for a 3-2 lead, during

the run that allowed him to take firm control. He managed three

consecutive service breaks, and by the time Soderling finally held

to stop the skid, he trailed 2-1 in the final set.

With Nadal covering so much ground, Soderling sometimes rushed

shots or aimed too close to the line. He finished with 45 unforced

errors to 16 for Nadal.

Even the points Nadal lost took a toll on his opponent, who was

coming off a grueling five-set win over Tomas Berdych in the

semifinals. The Swede, who was seeded fifth and upset Federer in

the quarterfinals, again came up short in his 26th Grand Slam

tournament.

The first service break came in the fifth game when Nadal

cracked a thunderous backhand for a winner, and he served out the

set. That essentially decided the match: He's now 95-1 at Grand

Slam tournaments when he wins the opening set.

Nadal improved to 22-0 this year on clay and now switches to

grass, where he'll seek a second Wimbledon title after missing last

year's tournament because of his knee trouble.

For the second time in three years, Nadal won all 21 sets en

route to the Roland Garros championship. Only two other men in the

Open era have won the title without losing a set, Borg and Ilie

Nastase.

 

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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