If Rafael Nadal had known his reign as the King of Roland Garros was to be brought to an end this year then it is a reasonable bet Swede Robin Soderling would have been very low down on his wishlist of conquerors.
Defeat to Roger Federer in the final would have undoubtedly been accepted with customary humility by the Mallorcan, but the fact it was Soderling who brought down the curtain on Nadal’s winning run made Sunday’s four-set defeat all the more galling.
There has been bad blood between the duo ever since they faced each other across the net in a tetchy third-round encounter at Wimbledon two years ago.
On that occasion, Soderling did not beat the Spaniard but got right under his skin.
He mimicked Nadal by yanking at the seat of his pants, failed to apologise after benefitting from a netcord, and further aggravated the Spaniard by not shaking his hand properly after losing the match.
“He’s very strange. I say hello to him seven times to his face, he never answers. He hits a lucky shot, he does not wave (to apologise),” Nadal said at the time.
“I thought it was me, but I asked around the locker room and almost nobody has anything nice to say about him.
“If I fall down, he says nothing. He grabs his pants, makes fun of me, (he’s) very unprofessional.”
Nadal has often been accused of pushing the law which allows players 20 seconds between points at slams to its very limit and took exception when Soderling went back to the chair for a new racket as the Spaniard was winding up to serve.
An unrepentant Soderling fired back later that year.
“I had to wait for him more than 200 times,” he said. “Every point I had to wait for him. He had to wait for me one time. He’s starting already shaking his head.”
But if Nadal was rattled then it was as nothing compared to the heartache on Sunday when his nemesis Soderling ended his run of 31 consecutive wins at Roland Garros. “Well, what we say in the locker room stays there, and we said nothing,” Nadal said diplomatically on Sunday.