Four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal slid to an astonishing 6-2 6-7 6-4 7-6 defeat to Sweden’s Robin Soderling at the French Open on Sunday.
Soderling, the 23rd seed, was a rank outsider against the world number one who had never lost a match on the clay at Roland Garros and was a short-priced favorite to win a record fifth straight title. But Soderling never looked back after breezing through the first set of their fourth round match and closed out victory as Nadal sent a volley wide on the first of four match points. King of clay Nadal had compiled a 31-match winning streak at the French Open and was attempting to win the second grand slam of the year after beating world number two Roger Federer in the final of the Australian Open. Soderling took advantage of a strong serve and big forehands to give Nadal a torrid time in front of a stunned crowd on the Phillppe Chatrier court. Defeat for Nadal opens up his side of the draw with world number three Andy Murray a possible beneficiary. Murray, who was seeded to meet Nadal in the semifinals, beat Marin Cilic of Croatia 7-5 7-6 6-1 in their earlier fourth round match. He will play Fernando Gonzalez of Chile for a place in the semifinals. Gonzalez beat Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-2 6-4 6-2 in their last 16 match.