There is a certain sense of parallelism in this year's men's final. It was time for Rafa to back in the final - this is, after all, his playground. And much as I was hoping to see my beloved Roger facing up against him... there is another part of me that is very glad Soderling has the chance to have another crack at him.
Beyond a Fedal final, I doubt there is any prospect more tantalising than Nadal/Soderling at the French now, given what happened last year. Nadal will be thirsty for revenge, and Soderling will be thirsty not just to win his first Grand Slam title, but to beat this guy again. And if there is anyone, any single non-Fed player who has the capacity to really trouble Nadal here, it is Soderling.
In fact, for Nadal, Soderling is the worst possible opponent. His battle with Federer has never been especially mental for him, but if any player is in Rafa's head, it is the Yoker. This will be the real test - how has last year's final affected him?
Truth be told, I think last year's result will give Rafa extra fire. Not only will he want revenge on Soderling, he genuinely doesn't like the guy, and he will NOT want to lose to him twice - not here, not at Roland Garros. But exactly the same thing is going to be true of Soderling - just as Rafa dislikes Robin, Robin dislikes Rafa, and I doubt there would be too much sweeter for Soderling than to win this tournament by beating Rafa.
In summary, both dudes have something to prove, and both will want to do it at the expense of the other.
Ever since Robin beat Roger, there has been a sense of fate about this match. In a way, Roland Garros is Robin's playground as well, and now we have a tussle. This was never going to be a final for Berdych or Melzer - this one is all Rafa, all Robin, and it is on like Donkey Kong.
3 months ago