• French Open, Day 11

Nadal puts on a show to send Soderling packing

ESPN staff
June 1, 2011
Rafael Nadal was magnificent in his destruction of Robin Soderling © Getty Images

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World No. 1 Rafael Nadal swept into the last four of the French Open after dismantling Sweden's Robin Soderling 6-4 6-1 7-6(3).

The Spaniard, hunting a sixth title at Roland Garros, was imperious, breaking Soderling down with relentless aggression and superior shot-making.

Nadal had looked a little below par in the earlier rounds but on Court Philippe Chatrier he delivered a masterclass on the red dirt, out-manoeuvring, out-blasting and out-thinking his opponent to cruise into the semi-finals and set up a potentially mouthwatering clash with Britain's Andy Murray.

The tone of the match - a repeat of last year's final - was set in the very first game, both men slugging it out from the baseline and Nadal stealing a march with the earliest of breaks. Nadal was a little off with his radar in his first service game, his groundstrokes finding the tramlines on more than one occasion but he held firm to consolidate the break.

A ridiculous forehand winner on the run earned Nadal two more break points, with Soderling saving one but then misdirecting a forehand to hand his unrelenting opponent a double break. Soderling stuck to his task manfully and earned a break point in the fourth game after Nadal slipped and the Swede took it to get on the scoreboard and back in the set. His respite was short-lived, however, as Nadal absorbed everything the fifth seed could throw at him before serving out the set, which took 50 minutes to complete.

The start of the second brought much of the same, powerful shots from both men unloaded from behind the baseline and Soderling desperately clinging onto his service. Once again Nadal picked him off, however, breaking in the third game and capitalising on sloppy mistakes from a wilting Soderling to earn a double break at 4-1. Soderling's demise wasn't complete yet, Nadal breaking for a third time to take the second set in devastating fashion.

Nadal, whose only loss at the French Open came at the hands of Soderling in 2009, was a man possessed and, astonishingly, his level failed to dip as he broke to go 2-0 up in the third. Soderling, who made the final the year he beat Nadal, refused to lie down and was rewarded for his persistence with a break of his own.

The pair continued to trade blows in a compelling contest and, after Soderling missed chances to break in game 11, the set headed to a tiebreak, where Nadal showed phenomenal stamina to edge it and book a place in another semi-final.

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