Tennis Freaks

“1821: Nadal, I’ve noticed, has a problem with his shorts, in that they keep on getting stuck up his jacksie and he has to pull them out before every point. Not sure why he doesn’t just get a size up, he’s probably loaded.”

Soderling v Nadal as it happened (part 2)

All England Club, 25 June-8 July

Wimbledon third round latest:

R S’LING (Swe) 28 v R NADAL (Spa) 2

4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 0-2 (30-30)

* denotes server


By Sam Lyon and Mark Barden


Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 0-2 Nadal
Nadal loses his footing in the increasingly moist conditions to gift Soderling 15-30 but he recovers to 30-30 before the rain returns with a vengeance. That’s it folks, but Rafa finds time to sign the odd giant tennis ball and autograph book as the downpour continues. Bless him. See you back here on Tuesday morning – weather permitting, of course.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 0-2 Nadal
There’s a matador flourish from Nadal as he goes 15-40 up. He’s looking more pumped than he has for a long time as he finally gives Soderling a taste of his own medicine. Rafa gets the break. Olé!

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 0-1 Nadal
There’s a bit of eyeballing going on as Nadal, in a crisp, fresh top, mixes things up with power and precision – including a beautifully soft-handed drop shot at the net – to go ahead.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 Nadal
The Swede’s serve is still working to good effect as he holds comfortably and make it two sets all. He’s raring to go for the decider but it sure is getting dark out there. If it was a cricket match, the light meter would be out.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 5-4 Nadal
Nadal holds to stay in the set but Soderling knows his chance to close out and level the match is coming up after the changeover. The umpire is on the phone – presumably telling the missus to keep his tea in the oven.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 5-3 Nadal
Nadal balloons a forehand way out of court and Soderling then hits an huge ace to underline his increasing dominance in this set. It’s all going his way right now whereas Nadal is looking thoroughly miserable.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 4-3 Nadal
Nadal is in all sorts of trouble again in the flat, damp conditions. He challenges a double fault call at 0-30 but Hawk-Eye proves him wrong and Soderling is soon a break up. If he wins this set, the match surely can’t finish tonight.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 3-3 Nadal
World number 28 Soderling is winning over 70% of the points on his first serve and keeps up that record to level matters.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 2-3 Nadal
Soderling blames a bad bounce as he hooks out for 0-30, but Nadal looks more composed as he regains the lead.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 2-2 Nadal
Two big serves and a sizzling forehand down the line give the Swede 40-0. A double fault gives Nadal a glimmer of hope but it’s quickly extinguished.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 1-2 Nadal
A frustrated Nadal is making some uncharacteristic errors, and a long cross-court forehand gives Soderling 15-30, but the second seed recovers and holds with a deft drop shot and volley at the net.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 1-1 Nadal
Soderling is serving well, hitting one unplayable 135mph effort. Nadal really looks like he wishes he was back in the locker-room having wrapped it up in three sets. He clearly doesn’t enjoy playing in these gloomy, damp conditions.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 0-1 Nadal
Nadal wins his serve in the first game fairly comfortably – he looks intent on putting Soderling under pressure and ending this before it gets too dark.


The tie-break resumes at 7-7. Nadal serves but Soderling breaks for 8-7 then serves out to take the set. The Spaniard does not look best pleased.

It’s 1910 and the covers are coming off again. Fingers crossed that Rafa and Robin can get their show back on the road this time.

The covers are removed shortly after 1800 but, you’ll never guess, it starts to rain and on they come again. Nadal and Soderling remain in the locker-room…

Soderling 4-6 4-6 6-6 (7-7) Nadal
A topsy-turvy breaker goes one way and then the other, Soderling twice battling back from a mini-break down and recovering from 4-2 down to lead 5-4 on serve and then 6-5 with a mini break thanks to a fantastic volley at the net. Nadal saves it, though, when Soderling shanks an overhead smash and the Spaniard secures match-point with brilliant and desperate defensive tennis. Unbelievably, Nadal’s attempted forehand winner misses – confirmed on appeal to Hawk-Eye – and play is suspended with the breaker at 7-7 because of rain. Would you Adam it…

Soderling 4-6 4-6 6-6 Nadal
It will be a third-set tie-break people – but only just. Soderling takes the game to deuce with good aggression in the face of defensive Nadal tactics, but the Spaniard’s crunching forehand saves him. And it’s starting to drizzle…

Soderling 4-6 4-6 6-5 Nadal
Brilliant from Soderling, holding to love and producing a fist-pump up there with the mighty Tim Henman. Oh who am I kidding, the Henman punch is lame-o isn’t it? Soderling’s on the other hand was rather impressive. It’s tight and it’s tense on Court One. Well it is in this set anyway.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 5-5 Nadal
There’s a bit of needle between these two now – if it erupts into fisticuffs I advise Soderling to take out Nadal’s giant left arm early and brush away the feeble right one, the Spaniard aint going to tickle you to death with that – and Nadal holds to 15 with a series of pounding groundstrokes. Tricky times these for Soderling now.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 5-4 Nadal
Terrific resistance from Nadal, who stays in the set with an expertly-crafted break, taking on Soderling’s forehand before earning two game points with a superb lob. The Swede errs yet again, double faulting, and we’re back on serve.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 5-3 Nadal
Nadal takes the opportunity between games to peel on a new shirt – much to the delight of a couple of cheeky ladies in the crowd – but it does not have the desired effect as a couple of errors bring up another break point for Soderling and the Swede takes it at the first time of asking with a crunching unreturnable forehand.

“Nadal’s coach and uncle Toni in the crowd is looking concerned for the first time in the match, and so he should.”
BBC Sport pundit Greg Rusedski

Soderling 4-6 4-6 4-3 Nadal
Unlike in the second set, when Soderling failed to consolidate his break, the Swede holds to 30, finishing off with an ace. He’s not quite full ablaze yet, but Soderling is quietly smouldering on Court One at the moment.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 3-3 Nadal
Soderling makes his move, trading blows with Nadal and coming out on top to move 30-15 up, but yet another simple mistake on the backhand gifts the initiative right back to the number two seed. However, after wasting two break-back opportunities, the Swede takes the third chance when a Nadal pass goes long. That was Soderling’s ninth break point and he’s taken just two. How different this match might’ve been if he could have improved on that statistic.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 2-3 Nadal
Soderling holds to love with more brutal work on his serve, but his problem is that he has so far been unable to do that consistently enough. Nadal is so unconcerned he asks for an umbrella, cherry and curly straw for his fruit drink as he puts his feet up during the mid-game interval. Well he might as well have…

“It’s no good just putting the ball back in play (on the Nadal serve) – Soderling has to be even more aggressive. He has got nothing to lose.”
BBC Sport Hawk-Eye analyst Jason Goodall

Soderling 4-6 4-6 1-3 Nadal
Sensational work from Nadal, who fends off a barrage of Soderling groundstrokes before dripping a brilliant crosscourt backhand winner into the corner. Umpire Ullrich has a word to Nadal about speeding up between points, not that it appears to have much impact on the laid back Spaniard, and it’s a comfortable hold to 15.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 1-2 Nadal
Bit of eye contact and verbals from Soderling after Nadal makes him look a right wally with a well disguised drop shot on his way to battling back from 40-15 down to break point, brought up with a delightful lob. The Spaniard misses the first opportunity but great defence on his second break chance forces the error from Soderling and that’s the break.

Soderling 4-6 4-6 1-1 Nadal
More good aggression from Soderling, who is really going for the line each shot, and he chases down a Nadal drop shot for the first time in the match to move to 30-30 on the Spaniard’s serve. A chip-and-charge forces the error from Nadal to bring up break point but, once again, Soderling errs on an easy forehand and the chance goes.

“I’m liking Soderling’s attitude at the moment. He’s hitting the ball harder and being a lot more positive. Still, though, he is making elementary mistakes.”
BBC Sport pundit Greg Rusedski

Soderling 4-6 4-6 1-0 Nadal
It’s a strange kind of atmosphere out on Court One. Either the Pimms has yet to kick in for the Wimbledon faithful, or it kicked in about two hours ago and there’s a stadium-wide afternoon lull going on. Either way, a competitive third-set opener is greeted with only light applause until the rally of the match so far ends with Nadal delicately dropping the ball over the net to bring up break point. Soderling responds with a massive ace and brings out another unreturnable serve on Nadal’s second break point moments later before going on to hold.


Soderling 4-6 4-6 Nadal
He may be out-matched today, but Soderling will not be out-fought. The Swede shows good touch and power to keep Nadal on the defensive in a couple of rallies, forcing errors from the Spaniard that bring him 30-15 up against the serve. However, with Soderling prowling the net looking for break point, Nadal drills a forehand crosscourt winner and goes on to hold thanks to two long passes from the Swede. That’s two sets to love and I can’t see a way back for Soderling now.

Soderling 4-6 4-5 Nadal
Good aggression from Soderling, who finds a series of first serves to hold to 15.

Soderling 4-6 3-5 Nadal
A favourable net cord off a blistering backhand gives Soderling the first point since the break, but Nadal hits his groove early, clipping another drop shot successfully and then serve-volleying for two game points. He takes the first when a Soderling return goes wide and the Swede must serve to stay in the set and, effectively if you ask me, the match.

1614: Apart from the rain delays, the other thing I will remember the first seven days of this Wimbledon for is the palest, identikit ball boys and girls ever known to the competition. Besides the BFG teenager that attented the net for Maria Sharapova’s match the other day, all of them are short, skinny and so pale they almost reflect the sun. How odd. Anyway. we’re underway in a minute people…

1609 BST: A fourth knock-up of the match for Nadal and Soderling is underway, so let’s keep our fingers crossed the sun stays strong.

“It’s just rubbish, all this on-and-off lark, isn’t it?”
Pat Cash on BBC Five Live

Wise words Pat, wise words…

1515 BST: Actually, scrap that, it actually is pretty darn threatening so it looks like we’re in for another break. How about spending the time in the interim doing some work? No? Alright, scanning the interwobble for amusing pix and videos it is then…

1459 BST: Oh dear, here we go again, the rain returns, the players stroll off and the covers come on. It’s nothing too threatening at the moment, but it’s another frustrating delay.

1458 BST: The players are out warming up, but it’s still a bit chancey out there. A big black cloud threatens overhead and a few supporters are covering up with macs and rain-coats – including quite possibly the hairiest man ever seen, who looks like he’s wearing gloves…but isn’t.

1450 BST: Things are looking up folks…the covers are off and the sun is out. However, I foolishly missed the opportunity to grab some nosebag during the rain, so if anyone fancies shipping me in a spot of lunch, feel free…

1345 BST: I tell you what, I could teach the likes of John Kettley and Michael Fish a thing or two – it’s raining again and the covers are coming back on. Hhmmm.

1342 BST: Apparently the latest is that the Wimbledon big-wigs are waiting to see what the big black cloud looming over the courts does before deciding whether to resume play. Now I’m no meteorological expert, but I reckon the cloud, being black in colour, will burst and start to spill drops of rain onto the ground below but hey, you never know…

1333 BST: Just the briefest of showers it would appear in SW19 and already the covers are coming back off. Prompt a couple of high-pitched whoops and whistles from a group of teenage girls in the stands. You know the sort – the ones that still whoop at the cinema when the certification holder is shown right before the start of the film. Pesky kids. Anyway, we should be looking at getting back underway in the next 10-15 minutes.

“When Rafael started complaining about the rain in that game I thought Soderling would ease through it, but once again the Spaniard found a way to win. It must be heartbreaking for Soderling.”
BBC Sport pundit Greg Rusedski

Soderling 4-6 3-4 Nadal
Bad news – the rain starts to come down and Nadal looks set to storm off court without the umpire’s say-so at one point. Umpire Steve Ullrich puts the Spaniard firmly in his place, explaining “no, you must play, I did not call the suspension and I’m in charge”. Nadal slopes off like a scolded school-child… but he responds by breaking right back. Soderling can’t cope with some brutal groundstrokes and the Spaniard breaks to 15. Then, much to Soderling’s evident annoyance, play is suspended at the mid-game interval. Harsh on the Swede, that.

Soderling 4-6 3-3 Nadal
Some talk in the commentary box about Nadal’s delaying tactics, the Spaniard taking between 22 and 28 seconds between each point. Oh the banter between Rusedski and Andrew Castle, you really should hear them. Ahem. Another glimmer for Soderling, who brings up his third break point with a forehand winner, but it is quickly snuffed out by a wide backhand return. He brings up another break point but again Nadal survives thanks to an exquisite drop shot. But it’s third time lucky for the Swede! A fantastic rally, with Nadal forcing back Soderling groundstokes time and again before the Swede volleys the winner and, hello, the crowd have woken up!

Soderling 4-6 2-3 Nadal
Soderling bounces back with a hold to love to keep his interest in the match. FYI, there’s a kind of turf warfare in the office at the moment, with my cricket editor duelling with the Wimbledon editor for my services. I’d love to say I feel oh so loved, but I’ve just been informed it’s because a load of people have called in sick. Monday sickies – always the giveaway of a big weekend no? Anyway, I’m sticking with Nadders in the hope he actually topples over under the weight of his freakishly rippled left arm.

Soderling 4-6 1-3 Nadal
More nice work from Nadal, who is mixing up his game well – one minute trading groundstokes from deep in the court, the next serve-volleying for winners. He holds to 15.

Soderling 4-6 1-2 Nadal
No sign of Rusedski’s tipped Soderling breakdown just yet, but he’s having to work for every point at the moment. The Swede moves to 40-0 up with some big serves, but Nadal gets back to deuce with some pressure tennis. According to Rusedski, the best time to gain a break is when you’re 0-40 down in a game – what on earth?! If that is what we’re teaching British tennis players these days, no wonder we’re pigging useless (except Lord Murray of course). Anyway, Nadal can’t quite break, Soderling’s seventh ace helping him to eventually hold and that was crucial you feel.

Soderling 4-6 0-2 Nadal
He might look good on the tennis court, but Nadal – with one arm so much bigger than the other – must look ridiculous sporting those soppy vest tops in the bar afterwards. Someone should tell that man to swap arms from time to time when doing his bicep curls. Still, the left arm is pumping nicely out there at the crucial times, even in the face of a couple of drilled Soderling backhands. The Swede brings up his second break point of the match when Nadal sends a simple forehand long, but a big second serve grazes the line and Nadal goes on to hold with another drop shot, prompting Soderling to slam his racket into the turf.

“Soderling has been known to lose it from time to time during matches and, with everything going against him in the match so far, he looks on the edge of a breakdown any minute.”
BBC Sport pundit Greg Rusedski

Soderling 4-6 0-1 Nadal
Unfortunately for Soderling, his serve has lost its edge somewhat and Nadal is increasingly getting his groundstrokes ticking. The Spaniard dominates the important rallies, bringing up a break point with a backhand winner, and he seals the game with a delightful drop shot.


Soderling 4-6 Nadal
An unforced error on a long backhand early in the game bodes ill for Soderling and Nadal does not have to make a return after that, the Swede failing to find the court despite the number two seed not finding a first serve in the entire game. A polite smattering of applause and cheering from what is far from a capacity crowd on Court One. There are enough work-shy fops in attendance to ensure there is some atmosphere, though, and it might pick up if Soderling can get his serve pumping again.

Soderling 4-5 Nadal
Impressive work from Soderling, serving to stay in the set, sending down four big serves, each of them unreturnable, on his way to a hold to love.

Soderling 3-5 Nadal
Without really hitting his straps yet, Nadal is in command here. A hold to 15, including his first ace of the match, and the Spaniard is finding a way in this match.

Soderling 3-4 Nadal
The commentator’s curse strikes for Soderling as Nadal breaks to 15. The Swede’s first serve abandons him and Nadal takes advantage, bullying the points on his way to two break points before Soderling opts to leave a simple volley at the net thinking a passing shot will go long, but it drops well in and the 28th seed looks like someone’s just returned his prized Jaguar after a jaunty Sunday drive with burger-sauce stains on the back seat.

“It’s amazing how it always happens on the seventh game.”
BBC Sport pundit Greg Rusedski

Soderling 3-3 Nadal
A couple of sliced drop-shots from deep in the court give Nadal the early advantage and two bludgeoned forehands force the errors that earn the Spaniard a comfortable hold.

Soderling 3-2 Nadal
The rather provocatively named bootynstretch on 606 suggests “Rafa is going to really struggle with Soderling, the Swede is quality on grass” – and he/she/it could well be right. More big serving from Soderling keeps Nadal out of the action, winning the game to 15, and it looks like we are in for a close encounter here.

Soderling 2-2 Nadal
Better from Nadal, who forces a couple of poor returns from Soderling and then drills a forehand cross-court winner to bring up game point. A miraculous squash-shot backhand on the backcourt line seals it and we’re back level.

Soderling 2-1 Nadal
Comfortable hold to love for Soderling, who strikes two aces on his way to the game. Nadal often starts slowly, so this isn’t a disastrous start for him just yet, but he will want to settle soon.

“Nadal is still searching for form, and the timing is just not right on his passing shots.”
BBC Sport pundit Greg Rusedski

Soderling 1-1 Nadal
Nadal pumps down a couple of big serves, but still his groundstrokes are not quite on the money and Soderling brings the game to deuce thanks to another unforced error from the number two seed. A long forehand return hands Soderling break point, after an unsuccessful challenge on the line call from the Spaniard, but the Swede misses out on the second serve, striking a backhand wide on game point. Nadal eventually holds with a serve-volley and it’s relief all round for the Spanish fans.

Soderling 1-0 Nadal
Some early signs of how this match might turn out – Soderling goes 15-0 up with a huge unreturnable serve on the line, before Nadal snatches the next point with a forehand winner, coming out on top after a backcourt rally. Not yet firing on all cylinders yet, though, the Spaniard and a couple of unforced errors hand the Swede a hold to 15.

“There’s nothing you can say about Rafael Nadal that hasn’t already been said. He’s an exceptional tennis player and his record at Wimbledon – 11 wins, three losses – is not bad at all.”
BBC Sport pundit Greg Rusedski

1203 BST: The players are out and warming up, with the promise of some tennis within minutes… For the record, these two have met just once before, Nadal beating the Swede in straight sets in the French Open in last year.

1158 BST: Does anyone else find it rather amusing, in a isn’t-it-a-touch-ridiculous kind of way, that the decision was taken not to have any play yesterday and then it turns out to be one of the nicest and brightest days in London we’ve seen for a while. Still, I’m sure Nadal – who will have to play three matches in three days if he is to progress – will have enjoyed putting his feet up and enjoying a late afternoon bbq.

The fact that Roger Federer, favourite for the tournament and Nadal’s great rival, has a bye into the quarter-finals because of Tommy Haas’s stomach injury will be of no consternation to the Spaniard I’m sure…

1154 BST: Well, here we are folks – a mere 43 hours and 44 minutes since Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling were forced to abandon the briefest of pre-match warm-ups on Saturday, the two players are nearing a resumption.

The covers are off, the court looks in decent shape and, shockingly, the sun is out. Let’s hope it stays that way, not least for the sake of a few of my colleagues who are enjoying a day out of the office to enjoy the delights of Wimbledon tennis. And not, for one moment they assure me, the Wimbledon bar, oh no.


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