Here are some highlights from today’s Rafael Nadal vs. Robin Soderling round robin match at the ATP World Tour Finals. Soderling won it 6-4, 6-4.
I don’t think it’s a huge shock that flat-ball-hitter Robin Soderling took out Rafael Nadal on the Swede’s favorite surface. But I do think its surprising that Robin Soderling pulled it off so easily when he wasn’t playing his A+ game.
This match revealed Rafael Nadal’s current lack of confidence. He looked nervous and frustrated in moments that usually don’t bother him. Rafa concurs: “If you are not completely calm and playing very well in that moment, it’s really difficult to win, and today I didn’t play in this way in those moments. . .I need little bit more confidence and more calm in those moments.”
And there’s an extra wrinkle when he plays the sour Swede. Rafa’s fist-pumps and cries of “Vamos!” don’t impress Soderling – they spur him on.
The two exchanged their usual curt handshake after the match (the photographer had to be quick to get this shot). I assume Robin catches Rafa’s eye and hisses “Gotcha!”
This loss, coupled with Federer’s victory over Verdasco yesterday, virtually guarantees that Roger will end the year at No. 1 (quick, someone do the anti-jinx dance!) Even if Rafa roars back to win the tournament, Roger could clinch the top spot by winning just one more round robin match (or going 1-2 in round robin competition and sneaking through to the final.) Finishing No. 1 this year really would be a notable achievement, making Federer only the second player in the history of the ATP rankings to have held, lost and then regained the year ending top ranking (the other guy being Ivan Lendl.)
Here’s the confidence-sapped Rafa on the ranking: “I think the chances I have are not to be No. 1. My level right now I think is not to be No. 1.”
Robin Soderling’s attitude going into the tournament as an alternate? “I like my chances,” he says.