>While Tomas Berdych ended Roger Federer’s Wimbledon campaign on Centre Court, Rafa Nadal and Robin Soderling took to Court 1, a court with very little grass anywhere around the baseline to continue their rivalry.
Soderling made his intentions clear early, opening with an easy service game, a mix of power and touch at the net. Nadal, on the other hand, struggled, handing over two breaks of serve, letting Soderling go ahead 4-0 quickly and with seemingly little effort as Nadal gifted error after error.
Rafa was lucky to get on the board at 5-1 before he started to play a little bit more within himself rather than reacting to the perceived threat of Soderling and over playing. The Spaniard pushed on getting one of the two breaks of serve back, his fingers heavily strapped to cover blisters. Nadal managed to get 3 games on the board before Soderling served out the first set.
In Nadal’s first service game a Hawk Eye challenge went to Soderling and Rafa was denied a chance to replay the point which he should have had, irritating the Spaniard to the point where he argued extensively with the umpire. The poor call from the umpire gave Soderling break point. A fired up Rafa fought off the challenge, sealing the game with an ace.
Nadal converted one of three break point chances in the second set as the momentum switched and Rafa was ahead 2-0.
As Soderling tried to serve to stay in the second set the umpire again overruled on an obvious ace and Robin was not impressed, neither were the crowd. It was safe to say at that point that Pascal Maria would not be umpiring the finals.
After restoring order in the second set, Rafa quickly got a break in the third to take a 3-2 lead as Soderling started to look annoyed and slightly tentative. The Spaniard was forced to work hard in his next service game after a little slip in concentration, but Soderling was too tentative on break points and didn’t convert any of his chances.
With Rafa positioned to serve for the third set Soderling called for the trainer as he sat down, pulling off his shoe to reveal a heavily strapped forefoot and big toe. It seemed, seeing Soderling hadn’t fallen and hurt himself, that the Swede was trying to disrupt Nadal’s rhythm when he could have asked for the trainer to be there for the break after the set. When the trainer eventually arrived he simply had his toe re-taped. As Nadal sat waiting he revealed some blue K-tape down his upper thigh. The whole situation seemed strange.
Due to the delay Nadal opened his service game with a double fault having lost his momentum and missed some shots he would have made, following it up with another double fault as he struggled to find his concentration. The tactic worked because Soderling broke and leveled the match at 5-5.
Soderling regained the advantage of serving first, moving ahead 6-5 in the set as Nadal struggled to re-find his momentum after Soderlings disgusting display of time delay. Someone with Nadal’s experience should have been able to maintain his concentration, however surely the fact that Soderling was already taped and just had the tape replaced is a violation of the rules regarding injury time-outs. I believe he has the right to have trainer for a new injury but this was ridiculous. His tape, however, was perfectly in place.
In the tie-break Rafa took the early mini-break and used his spin to his advantage, Soderling hurling his racket into the grass at one point. A bad call against Rafa as he charged the net, in control of the point, was replayed – Nadal making no mistake on his second chance. Soderling looked frustrated and slightly tired as he made four forehand errors and Nadal took a 5-2 lead. Rafa was finally rewarded, rightfully taking the third set, and the tiebreak 7-4.
Soderling’s feet seemed to abandon him as he began to look progressively more fatigued, Nadal still hopping around looking fresh. Despite not playing since Roland Garros (where he was apparently mentally and physically fatigued) Soderling simply seemed to run out of gas.
Nadal, who seemed to be more able to block Soderling’s big serve back into play, something he has started doing more frequently this year, broke Soderling in the fourth game and then served for a 4-1 lead and a chance to play in the semi’s, one step closer to achieving his goal of reclaiming Wimbledon.
Soderling started looking for cheap points, essentially checking out of the match. Nadal consolidated his lead with a second break of serve and stepped up to serve for the match at 5-1.
On his first match point a man in the crowd yelled out “I love you Rafa” following it up with an “I still love you Rafa” after Nadal missed his first match point. A forehand down the line secured the match.
Rafa booked his semi final spot in 2 hours and 42 minutes, winning 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-1.