What is the biggest Grand Slam upset you remember?
We have seen several in the recent past, but perhaps few had as far-reaching consequences than that epic fourth round match in 2009 when Robin Soderling was the first person to defeat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros.
The Spaniard was 31-0 and chasing a record fifth consecutive French Open title while the 23rd seed Soderling had never reached the quarter-finals. But the Swede beat the top seed and world No 1 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(2) to change the course of men’s tennis history.
Soderling would go on to play the finals, a match that gave Roger Federer his only French Open title to date. It helped the Swiss 20-time Major winner achieve a Career Slam. Today, Nadal has an unprecedented 11 French Open titles, recovering from what had then looked like rock bottom in 2009.
Nadal would lose just one more match on his favourite turf, when Novak Djokovic beat him in the quarter-finals in 2015. Soderling would reach another French Open final, the very next year in fact, and go down to Nadal in a full circle.
But on that May day, the Swede was in a different zone. He went for the lines fearlessly and imposed his game. On most days, Nadal could have returned the firepower, but that was the day of Soderling. He hit the winners and forced the errors and didn’t back down even when he dropped a set in a Tiebreak meltdown.
Years later, questions still linger over the Spaniard’s fitness that day, but in the end, it was the first of only two losses in Paris.
“I think to beat him on clay [is challenging]. But to beat him in five sets on clay is even more difficult,” Soderling said.
Watch a recap of the match here
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