Match Stats/Report - Soderling vs Nadal, French Open fourth round, 2009

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Robin Soderling beat Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(2) the French Open fourth round, 2009 on clay

Soderling would go onto the final where he'd lose to Roger Federer. Nadal had won previous 4 titles at the event and would go onto win the next 5. The 2 would meet again in the following years final (Nadal winning). The result was Nadal's first loss at the French Open and to date, remains 1 of only 2

Soderling won 143 points, Nadal 128

Serve Stats
Soderling...
- 1st serve percentage (91/143) 64%
- 1st serve points won (62/91) 68%
- 2nd serve points won (32/52) 62%
- Aces 9 (1 second serve), Service Winners 1
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (26/143) 18%

Nadal....
- 1st serve percentage (99/128) 77%
- 1st serve points won (66/99) 67%
- 2nd serve points won (13/29) 45%
- Aces 3
- Double Faults 2
- Unreturned Serve Percentage (21/128) 16%

Serve Patterns
Soderling served...
- to FH 29%
- to BH 66%
- to Body 5%

Nadal served...
- to FH 33%
- to BH 58%
- to Body 10%

Return Stats
Soderling made...
- 105 (45 FH, 60 BH), including 6 runaround FHs
- 18 Errors, comprising...
- 13 Unforced (5 FH, 8 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 5 Forced (5 FH)
- Return Rate (105/126) 83%

Nadal made...
- 117 (55 FH, 62 BH), including 21 runaround FHs
- 16 Errors, comprising...
- 11 Unforced (6 FH, 5 BH), including 2 runaround FHs
- 5 Forced (3 FH, 2 BH)
- Return Rate (117/143) 82%

Break Points
Soderling 5/6 (5 games)
Nadal 2/4 (4 games)

Winners (including returns, excluding serves)
Soderling 49 (30 FH, 7 BH, 4 FHV, 4 BHV, 4 OH)
Nadal 29 (22 FH, 7 BH)

Soderling's FHs - 6 cc, 6 dtl (1 at net), 13 inside-out, 4 inside-in and 1 running-dow-drop-shot dtl at net
- BHs - 3 cc, 3 dtl (1 pass) and 1 inside-out

Nadal's FHs - 3 cc (1 pass at net), 7 dtl (1 pass), 8 inside-out (1 at net), 2 inside-in and 2 longline (1 pass at net, 1 Soderling misjudged and left)
- BHs - 5 cc (1 pass), 1 drop shot and 1 net chord dribbler

Errors (excluding serves and returns)
Soderling 78
- 69 Unforced (38 FH, 30 BH, 1 FHV)
- 9 Forced (4 FH, 4 BH, 1 FHV)... with 1 BH running-down-drop-shot at net
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 49.4

Nadal 66
- 37 Unforced (22 FH, 15 BH)
- 29 Forced (22 FH, 4 BH, 2 FHV, 1 BHV)
- Unforced Error Forcefulness Index 42.4

(Note 1: All 1/2 volleys refer to such shots played at net. 1/2 volleys played from other parts of the court are included within relevant groundstroke numbers)

(Note 2: the Unforced Error Forcefulness Index is an indicator of how aggressive the average UE was. The numbers presented for these two matches are keyed on 4 categories - 20 defensive, 40 neutral, 50 attacking and 60 winner attempt)

Net Points & Serve-Volley
Soderling was 23/30 (77%) at net

Nadal was 5/10 (50%) at net

Match Report
Soderling attacks with big shots from the back, Nadal counter-punches and Soderling has much the better of action in one of the most surprising results in tennis. Bounce of court is low-ish for clay. It looks its rained recently, slices stay knee high (or lower) and top spin shots don't get up as much as normal

Brief backdrop - Nadal had won previous 4 French Opens and would go onto win the 5 following. Recently, the two had met in Rome and Nadal had triumphed 1 & 0. Leading up to this event, Nadal had won titles in Monte Carlo, Rome and been runner-up in Madrid. Soderling was seeded 23rd and justly known as an particularly good indoor player, with a big serve and attacking groundies

How does Soderling win? Does he play exceptionally well? Does Nadal play exceptionally badly? Soderling plays well - effective serving even on the slow surface and good, attacking groundstrokes off both sides. He follows optimal attacking strategy against Nadal off targetting the FH corner and he does it off both wings. Nadal doesn't play particularly well and well below his norm - his serve is rolled in, returns short, groundies lack punch and consistency and most of all, his defensive play - both movement and retrieving - are average at best. He looks like an ordinary, common clay courter

Seeing Nadal play so brings home how high a standard he usually sets. His play isn't particularly bad (or good) by a normal standard. For him though, it stands out as weak, if not poor. As Nadal losses on clay are so rare, report is primarily written from his point of view

Serve & Return
The standout feature is Nadal returning softly. He's returning from well behind baseline - not nearly as far as he'd come to in later years, but further back then he was wont to upto this point in his career. Soderling has a hefty - not big - serve. As in, he doesn't go for too much or try particularly for aces or service winners but rather, a good, powerful serve to let him start rally on front foot

It work. He's got high 64% first serves in and with Nadal returning from so far back and returning with force, Robin's able to start rallies from good position. 68% first serve points won in this light, isn't particularly good - and an indicator that he's not overly dominant in play

Nadal wins virtually identical 67% first serve points won, serving at much higher 77% in-count. And he's almost serving 2 second serves. Just harmless, rolled in point starting serves from Nadal. There's scope for Robin to have looked to pound the first return. He doesn't, puts it in play firmly - and then they rally from roughly 50-50 position.

In short, Robin has good lead starting his first serve points, Nadal has 50-50 scenarios on his. For them to win such points at same rate (Soderling +1%) favours Nadal, especially since he's serving at 13% higher

Its on second serve points that big difference emerges. Soderling wins 62%, Nadal a low 45%. Soderling's number is readily explainable. Nadal continues to return form well back and returns just as passively and Soderling can start rallies from advantageous position. There's little difference from his first serve points... discredit Nadal's returning for this.

Nadal's figure is harder to explain. There's not much difference in his second serve from his first. Nor does Soderling attack it. In theory, he should be winning about the same percentage as his first serve points. But he doesn't. Soderling does play more aggressively from the back on Nadal's second serve points

Nadal's probably lucky that Soderling doesn't attack with the return (its very doable against both serves) or attack more on Nadal's first serve points (which are not much different from his second serve points, where Soderling does attack with great success)

On flip side, passive returning from Nadal against even second serves. Good, solid serving from Soderling, and good, 83% return rate against it by Nadal at cost of leaving Soderling in charge at start of rallies. It ends up not paying
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
Play - Baseline (& Net)
Generally, baseline action in Nadal's clay matches follow 1 of 2 patterns

i) Neutral play - where 2 players trade shots from back. Nadal is almost always the more consistent (makes fewer UEs), is more apt to take charge as rally goes on (pushing opponent back or running him side to side) and often leads with FH cc's to breakdown his right handed opponents BH (i.e. draw errors from it)

ii) Opponent attacking - which he can do by going for his shots early (as happens in the '10 final between Soderling and Nadal) or by taking charge from neutral rally. Nadal typically remains very consistent and defends like the dickens, putting most forceful balls back and his opponent straining for more and more on their attacking shots to end points, resulting in more errors

Throw in Nadal with a heavy, high bouncing regulation ball making it awkward to attack him in first place - and those are your typical Nadal matches

Here -
a) Nadal isn't particularly consistent. Neutral UEs read Soderling 29, Nadal 28 (he also has 1 defensive UE)... which is very surprising. Effectively, it means just engaging in neutral rallies is a viable strategy for Soderling (though that's not what he does). One would expect playing who-blinks-first with Nadal from the back to be suicide for Robin Soderling... it isn't in this match

b) Nadal's ball isn't heavy. Ball doesn't get up too high, not much punch behind his shots and short ball comes fairly regularly. Effectively, it means Soderling can attack without undue risk against a not-awkward ball

c) Soderling does go on the attack and then...

d) Nadal's defences aren't particularly good, with both movement and late retrieving down from his norm. Soderling targets Nadal's FH corner off both wings to good effect - he has large 13 FH inside-out winners and Nadal has huge 22 FH FEs (all other shots from both players combined in match have 16), overwhelming bulk drawn by powerful BH cc's (Soderling also has 3 winners with the shot)

Offensively, Soderling hits winners with FH inside-outs and forces errors with BH cc. Rarely is Nadal able to even prolong points where Soderling attacks so, much less thwart it. This is very unusual. Even years after this match, Nadal makes opponents hit 3-4 extra shots to end a point. Here, 1 shot is almost always enough. This isn't due to Soderling hitting exceptionally hard, but Nadal not being able to defend as he usually does

To be clear, Soderling's power hitting is excellent and would do for most players. Probably not a standard Nadal showing though. Soderling's able to get on top of the ball - partially due to relatively low bounce, but his height makes him more able to do this than most players - to hit comfortably from stomach height (as opposed to ball getting to awkward, rib height as Nadal's shots tend to generally). While clearly the aggressor, Soderling excercises judgment in choosing when to start. He's not in mad-man attacking mode, as he would be in the following years final. Granted, the way Nadal just puts balls in court, Soderling can afford to wait for opening... Nadal isn't able to pressure him or move him around

In general, Nadal tends to be vulnerable in his FH corner because he leaves it half open by leaning over on BH court, from where he can runaround to hit FHs more readily. Here, he keeps central court position, but still can't protect the FH corner. And he doesn't runaround to hit many FHs either... early on, he tries, but isn't quick enough. Again, due to his movements being down, not Soderling hitting too well

And that's action for the match, ending in Soderling proactively attacking, Nadal reactively counter-punching. For Nadal to come out ahead within that dynamic, he'd need to defend particularly well or have Soderling mess up attacking... and his being wall-solid (i.e. low neutral UEs) would help

The wall thing doesn't happen as both players having 24 neutral or defensive UEs indicate. Good job by Soderling to remain this consistent. For Nadal, its not a good outcome
The defence thing doesn't happen, with 1 good attacking shot from Soderling being enough to end points
As for Soderling messing up attacking, he has 25 winner attempt UEs to 49 winners and 15 attacking UEs while forcing 29 errors out of Nadal.... he's well in the positives when attacking

Nadal isn't quite toothless either. His FH has 22 winners, 22 UEs... by far the best ratio of the 4 groundstrokes on show (Sod's FH and Nadal's BH are both at -8 and Sod's BH -23... the last figure is deceptive because Sod's BH forces the bulk of Nadal's 29 FEs). Nadal's FH success is more about shot-making than point construction. He's rarely in charge of rallies. Its neutrally and defensively that Nadal's showing down.

From neutral position, his shots are relatively soft and a short ball is never too long in coming. Soderling is able to take charge and attack. A high proportion of Nadal's errors are into the net... which is very unusual for him

Defensively, he has a bad day by his own sky high standard. And he's only able to force 7 baseline errors out of Soderling - more for rarely attacking and not doing so with vigour than Soderling defending well. Soderling forces 26

Though not particularly tested, very good movement for Soderling. He's rarely out of position and runs down what he has to without strain

To complete picture of play, Soderling takes to coming forward to end points and is 23/30 at net. Nadal shows no interest in coming forward - the way rallies go, there isn't much scope for him to - and is only at net 10 times

Match Progression
Its fairly windy and court looks a bit damp at start of match. Nadal is quite error prone and plays from comfortably behind baseline, without Soderling having pushed him there. Sod utilizes serves out wide to take Nadal off court and hitting third ball into open court to good effect. More poor from Nadal than good from Soderling as Sod breaks twice to take first set 6-2. He hits a lot of balls into the net and is doing nothing with the serve (he makes 22/25 first serves). BH in particular lets him down

Nadal shaves the errors in second set but his shots remain ordinary of force, with short balls not long in coming. This leads to Sod making more of the errors as rallies get extended. Nadal breaks to go up 2-1, which he nurses through to serving for the set. He can't do it, with his FH failing him. On break point, Sod hits a an excellent wide BHV winner to even things up at 5-5

Very poor tiebreak from Soderling, who tries to blast point ending shots early in rallies off both sides and constantly misses

Nadal plays with a bit more authority in third set, but Soderling retains significant hitting advantage. And Nadal has no answer to Sod's serve out wide + third ball into open court plays. The break comes in middle of set and key to it is Soderling outlasting Nadal in 2 long-ish rallies, both ending with BH UEs. Sod throws in a pounded BH cc error forcing shot and on break point, overpowers Nadal to take net and draw the passing error

Players trade breaks at start off 4th set - poor game by Sod to give up the break, but gets it back to love with a couple of strong plays and a couple of Nadal UEs. Set goes on comfortably on serve. Serving to take set to tiebreak, Sod is pushed to a 10 point game, which he comes through without facing break point

Good, solid tiebreak from Soderling. Nadal comes to net a couple of times, as he'd done in the previous game, but is met with a very strong pass and a low one down match point

Summing up, excellent match from Soderling - serving hard but intelligently, and attacking vigorously off both sides and focusing on his opponents vulnerable FH corner with FH inside-outs and BH cc's. Its the success of the latter that puts him well ahead when attacking. An ordinary and passive showing from Nadal - serving gently, returning defensively, while from the back, his basic consistency is down, his shots lack punch and he's unable to defend or move to his usual standard

@aldeayeah - thoughts?

Stats for the pair's '10 final - Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Soderling, French Open final 2010 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
Stats for Nadal's '15 quarter-final with Novak Djokovic - Duel Match Stats/Reports - Djokovic vs Nadal, Monte Carlo semi-final & French Open quarter-final, 2015 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
 

dapchai

Hall of Fame
@Waspsting how would you compare Soderling 09 and 10 in terms of level of play? It is quite obvious that Nadal 09 was quite normal while his 10 form was pretty good.
 

Mark-Touch

Hall of Fame
A few days ago I got out my tennis DVD wallet with dozens and dozens of matches.
Of all the matches in it, it was this one that I started watching. :)
 

Ray Mercer

Hall of Fame
I think so too, but let's wait for Wasp's response. I remember the 10 QF match between Robin and Roger also had bad weather - rainy and high humidity - like the 09 R4.
That match had very damp and slow conditions. The ball wasn’t bouncing at all and it was almost impossible for Federer to hit through the court. Those are just terrible conditions for his game. They’re perfect pusher conditions for Djokovic.
 

aldeayeah

Legend
That was a day in which Rafa was missing one or two gears - credit to Sod for capitalizing on it; he was fearless and played intelligently.

A milestone match - the end of Nadal's first, and IMO most brilliant stint.
 
Does anyone else think being in the final added pressure to Soderling?
I mean look what happened in RG 2009, he played an unreal match against Nadal and when I found out he playing Federer in the final I was legitimately scared and had nightmares of him losing but Roger routined him. Would be interesting to see Nadal -Soderling rd4 in 2010 I think the results would differ
 

catskillthunder

Professional
As each point, game, set went on I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. Especially after Nadal had destroyed Soderling a couple weeks prior. Has to be one of the biggest upsets at the FO in recent history.
 

octobrina10

Talk Tennis Guru
Does anyone else think being in the final added pressure to Soderling?
I mean look what happened in RG 2009, he played an unreal match against Nadal and when I found out he playing Federer in the final I was legitimately scared and had nightmares of him losing but Roger routined him. Would be interesting to see Nadal -Soderling rd4 in 2010 I think the results would differ
Rafa defeated Sod in the 2011 QF:
 

octobrina10

Talk Tennis Guru
Does anyone else think being in the final added pressure to Soderling?
I mean look what happened in RG 2009, he played an unreal match against Nadal and when I found out he playing Federer in the final I was legitimately scared and had nightmares of him losing but Roger routined him. Would be interesting to see Nadal -Soderling rd4 in 2010 I think the results would differ
It's great that Sod wasn't afraid of Fed the next year - in 2010:
 

Waspsting

Hall of Fame
@Waspsting how would you compare Soderling 09 and 10 in terms of level of play? It is quite obvious that Nadal 09 was quite normal while his 10 form was pretty good.
I think he plays better in '10, and even more aggressively of style

Here, he's got a good, hefty serve he uses to set up strong starting point to rally
There, he's monster serving, looking for aces and service winners with each serve. And big second serves too

Here, he rallies neutrally and then takes charge to attack from there
There, he's vapouring every ball... I don't think he plays 3 neutral shots in a row

UEFI's are similar - here its 49.4, there its 50.9, and the relative breakdown indicates the greater aggression in '10
- Neutral - 42% here, 17% there
- Attacking - 22% here, 57% there
- Winner attempts - 36% here, 26% there

Basically, he replaced neutral rallying shots with attacking shots there

Here, he's got 49 winners, 69 UEs and forces 29 errors.... winner/UE differential -20, winner + errors forced/UE differential +9
There, he had 21 winners, 35 UEs and forced 25 errors.... winner UE differential -14, winners + errors forced/UE differential +11

That's all against a much better playing Nadal in '10... much more solid (i.e. not error prone), much better hitting (its quite soft here, not hard to take charge if one looks to as Soderling does, there he hits hard and deep) and much, much better in defence

One thing he does better here than in '10 is come to net to finish. Lots of chances to when he's got Nadal scrambling and poking balls back, but he stays back and keeps pounding.
Here, those attacking shots usually finish the point and if Nadal makes the 'get', Soderling's up front to put the ball away

Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Soderling, French Open final 2010 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
 

dapchai

Hall of Fame
I think he plays better in '10, and even more aggressively of style

Here, he's got a good, hefty serve he uses to set up strong starting point to rally
There, he's monster serving, looking for aces and service winners with each serve. And big second serves too

Here, he rallies neutrally and then takes charge to attack from there
There, he's vapouring every ball... I don't think he plays 3 neutral shots in a row

UEFI's are similar - here its 49.4, there its 50.9, and the relative breakdown indicates the greater aggression in '10
- Neutral - 42% here, 17% there
- Attacking - 22% here, 57% there
- Winner attempts - 36% here, 26% there

Basically, he replaced neutral rallying shots with attacking shots there

Here, he's got 49 winners, 69 UEs and forces 29 errors.... winner/UE differential -20, winner + errors forced/UE differential +9
There, he had 21 winners, 35 UEs and forced 25 errors.... winner UE differential -14, winners + errors forced/UE differential +11

That's all against a much better playing Nadal in '10... much more solid (i.e. not error prone), much better hitting (its quite soft here, not hard to take charge if one looks to as Soderling does, there he hits hard and deep) and much, much better in defence

One thing he does better here than in '10 is come to net to finish. Lots of chances to when he's got Nadal scrambling and poking balls back, but he stays back and keeps pounding.
Here, those attacking shots usually finish the point and if Nadal makes the 'get', Soderling's up front to put the ball away

Match Stats/Report - Nadal vs Soderling, French Open final 2010 | Talk Tennis (tennis-warehouse.com)
Thank you! Very interesting. Every observation should be backed up with evidence and statistics. That means Rafa was subpar in 2009 (although that didn't detract much from Robin's achievement), which doesn't fit some people's propaganda here. Can you make a report of the 10 RG QF between Robin and Roger? That would be great.
 

aman92

Hall of Fame
The achievement by Soderling gets bigger and bigger by each passing year. He'll remain the only player to beat prime Nadal at RG
 

aldeayeah

Legend
His 2010 defeat of Federer was a scarier level.
His defeat of 2009 Nadal was largely due to being in the right place at the right moment.

His defeat of 2010 Federer was a once in a lifetime performance - not because Fed is better than Nadal, but because it's usually a terrible matchup for Sod.
Also that day the gods conspired to give him favorable (slow) conditions, you could feel the difference in that match as the temperature dropped and the moisture built up. Suddenly Fed couldn't hit through the court anymore, but Robin's bazooka groundies could. And did.
 

aldeayeah

Legend
Nadal's ball isn't heavy. Ball doesn't get up too high, not much punch behind his shots and short ball comes fairly regularly. Effectively, it means Soderling can attack without undue risk against a not-awkward ball
In general, Nadal tends to be vulnerable in his FH corner because he leaves it half open by leaning over on BH court, from where he can runaround to hit FHs more readily. Here, he keeps central court position, but still can't protect the FH corner. And he doesn't runaround to hit many FHs either... early on, he tries, but isn't quick enough. Again, due to his movements being down, not Soderling hitting too well.
These are the keys to the 2009 match IMO, particularly the second quote.

Soderling was very good and very brave, but it was more a question of Nadal being worse than usual than Robin being better than usual.
 
Top