Soderling won’t be Robin Nadal of the title this time
31 May 2009 is a date that Robin Soderling and Rafael Nadal are ever likely to forget.
For Soderling (10/3) it will go down as one of his greatest ever victories, for Nadal (2/9) it marked the end of his stunning run of success at Roland Garros; the sequence of 31 straight wins in Paris is a French Open record that is unlikely to be matched in the men's or women's game any time soon, unless of course the Spaniard can beat it himself.
After that defeat, Rafa didn't quite recover really and a combination of a loss of form and injury (which forced the then-defending champion to miss Wimbledon) made the Spaniard slip down to number four in the world and not win a single title for the rest of the year.
He's certainly bounced back from that 'poor form' in 2010, and is on the verge of not only completing a historical Clay Slam of winning each major tournament on the red stuff, but also regaining his world number one spot which he held for 10 months up to the start of July.
It looks a fairly safe bet that both feats will be achieved, and I fully expect Nadal to dismiss his opponent in straight sets (5/4).
Only two players have taken a set off Nadal on clay this year, and I can't imagine that stat changing in the final.
While I'm not underestimating Soderling, I just think that Nadal will not want to leave anything to chance; he's got an opportunity now to be top dog again, and if he stays injury free he could go on to dominate the world rankings for some time to come.
Obviously Roger Federer will have something to say about that, but Nadal can certainly help his cause by continuing his imperious clay form on to the grass of Queen's next week and into the summer.
First things first though, and he's got Federer's conqueror Soderling to overcome in Sunday's final.
The Swede is no mug, as Nadal has found out in their last two meetings, he's served well over the last couple of weeks and will be confident of adding a few more aces to his tournament-high tally of 75, however he'll also need to cut out his sloppy double fault count which is 2nd only to Novak Djokovic on 25 to the Serb's 33.
In the match last year at Roland Garros Soderling didn't hit a single double though so will hope to put in another stellar serving display on Sunday.
From a betting point of view, it's interesting to note that there has never been more than 10 games in any of the previous five 1st sets between the pair; all sorts of value could be found with our various relevant markets, 8.5-10.5 games in the 1st set is 19/20, while 6-4 for the 1st set correct score could be worth a shout at 23/10.
In the match itself though I can only see one outcome, if Nadal takes the 1st set (4/11, Soderling 2/1) then there will be only one outcome - a 5th French Open crown for the world's best ever clay court player.