World No. 2 Rafael Nadal is still receiving congratulatory messages ever since he won a record 13th title at the French Open. Nadal’s arch-rival Roger Federer hailed it as one of the greatest achievements in any sport. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic, who got thrashed in the final admitted that Nadal was truly the ‘King of Clay’.
The compliment which stood out was tweeted by the former World No. 4 Robin Soderling. The Swede was the first player to defeat Rafael Nadal at the French Open, and he did so in the quarterfinals back in 2009. Soderling eventually reached the finals of Roland Garros that year but lost to Roger Federer, who won his maiden Grand Slam title on clay.
Soderling applauded Nadal’s historic victory at the Parisian clay and revealed that just qualifying for the French Open 13 times was a colossal achievement, let alone winning it.
“To put things in perspective: Just to qualify for the French Open main draw 13 times is an unbelievable achievement as an athlete. Words can not describe what Rafa has done. Big up ”young man”,” said Soderling.
In 2009, Nadal was chasing his fifth consecutive title at Roland Garros. However, Soderling ended the Spaniard’s run and caused arguably the biggest upset of that year. The tennis fraternity could not believe their eyes, especially since Nadal had humiliated Soderling 6-1, 6-0 at the Rome Masters a few weeks prior to the 2009 French Open.
However, Nadal avenged his defeat at the 2010 French Open final where he pulverized Soderling in straight sets. The duo played against each other in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon the same year where Nadal ousted Soderling convincingly.
Sadly, Soderling played his last professional match at age 26 after contracting mononucleosis. He also opened about suffering from mental health issues, dealing with anxiety, and announced his retirement in 2015.