Rafael Nadal's Roland Garros Regrets: Robin Soderling Shock and Injury Woes

Rafael Nadal described his worst Roland Garros moments

by Jovica Ilic
Rafael Nadal's Roland Garros Regrets: Robin Soderling Shock and Injury Woes

Rafael Nadal has won 14 of the previous 18 Roland Garros titles! The Spaniard has had only a few setbacks at his favorite Major; he described them in an interview. Nadal debuted at Roland Garros in 2005, before his 19th birthday.

Already establishing himself as one of the best clay-courters on the Tour, Rafa defeated Roger Federer and Mariano Puerta to win the title as a teenager. Forging an unprecedented dominance at a single Major, Rafa has lost only three matches in Paris in the previous 18 years.

The Spaniard claimed mind-blowing 14 titles and failed to leave Paris with the trophy only four times. Regarding his worst Roland Garros moments, Nadal mentioned that 2009 loss to Robin Soderling and the 2016 withdrawal. After four straight Roland Garros titles, Nadal experienced a fourth-round defeat to Robin Soderling in 2009.

The Swede stunned Rafa 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 in three hours and 30 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Struggling with knee tendinitis that would force him to skip the grass season, Nadal could not prevail against the rival who threw everything he had at him.

Robin played better in the decisive moments to find himself over the top and earn a career-best victory. The Swede served well, defending his second serve more efficiently and taking every opportunity to attack and control the rallies.

Hitting the ball on the rise from both wings, Soderling tamed his groundstrokes to avoid cheap errors that would cost him at least one more set if he was not careful. Nadal had only four break chances in the entire encounter.

He converted two and suffered five breaks from six opportunities offered to the Swede, losing the edge in the pivotal moments to hit the exit door. The defending champion stayed in touch with Soderling in the shortest points.

Rafael Nadal has failed to win the Roland Garros title four times since 2005.

Still, he was beaten badly in the mid-range exchanges between five and eight strokes, as Soderling engineered the rallies more efficiently and gained a crucial advantage.

Also, the Swede was on level terms with his rival in the most extended exchanges that saw ten strokes or more. Nadal lacked power in his shots and the mental endurance to guide him toward victory. In 2016, Nadal dropped only nine games against Sam Groth and Facundo Bagnis in the opening two rounds.

However, he gave Marcel Granollers a walkover ahead of the third round due to a wrist injury. The Spaniard returned stronger in 2017 and claimed four consecutive titles to stand on 13 Parisian trophies. He lost an epic semi-final to Novak Djokovic in 2021 before regaining the title last year after beating Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud.

Rafa last played in January this year, missing eight tournaments and gathering dark clouds over his Roland Garros participation. "Honestly, I played better in Monte Carlo and Rome than at Roland Garros in my early years. It's more challenging to have a good feeling at Roland Garros; the court is enormous, and there are different sensations.

I have never had bad feelings here, but that was also the feeling at other tournaments. My worst Roland Garros memories are, without a doubt, that 2009 Robin Soderling loss and the 2016 withdrawal. Even though I do not like to say it, what I have accomplished in Paris is very special. I'm grateful and understand the gesture: I accomplished something challenging to imagine," Rafael Nadal said.

Rafael Nadal Roland Garros Robin Soderling