Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Still Feeling the Aftershocks of Rafa Destruction; World No1's Defeat as He Chased a Fifth French Open Title Measures the Same on the Richter Scale as Mike Tyson's Loss to 'Buster' Douglas

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Still Feeling the Aftershocks of Rafa Destruction; World No1's Defeat as He Chased a Fifth French Open Title Measures the Same on the Richter Scale as Mike Tyson's Loss to 'Buster' Douglas

Article excerpt

Byline: Matthew Norman

NOT for 20 years has individual sport known a shock as seismic as Rafael Nadal's French Open defeat and the primary emotion -- for me, as for Roger Federer and Andy Murray -- was relief. The last time the Richter scale measured something of this magnitude was in 1990, when 42-1 James 'Buster' Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in Tokyo.

So crushingly inevitable was a quick Tyson win that I didn't bother staying up, refused to believe a friend who rang with the result, and after seeing the replay was convinced that Jonathan Routh had faked the whole thing for Candid Camera.

I did watch yesterday's events from Roland Garros, hence the relief, although it's still a struggle to accept that Nadal, history's most destructive and indomitable clay courter, was dominated and destroyed by a journeyman in the Buster Douglas mould.

With hindsight, there had been an omen. In Madrid recently, Nadal was listless and out of sorts all week before meekly succumbing to Roger Federer in the final. However, Madrid's clay is quick and low-bouncing like the Hamburg surface on which Nadal lost to Federer two years ago before storming to his third French Open, so no one took much notice.

And even if anyone secretly felt that Nadal -- winner of 31 matches and 32 sets in a row in Paris until yesterday -- could be kept from a fifth straight title, who believed that a talented but underachieving nobody like Robin Soderling, could do the preventing? Soderling would seem the glib answer to that one. This obnoxious young Swede doesn't care for Nadal, with whom he clashed bitterly during a Wimbledon five-setter in 2007, and he came out swinging like an angry man with a sore ego and a score to settle.

Settle it, quite brilliantly, he eventually did. Yet even when he overpowered an oddly subdued, passionless Nadal to take a 2-1 lead in sets, all the logic and the smart money insisted the Mallorcan would somehow reignite the flame; and that even if he couldn't, Soderling would do a Devon Loch at the first glimpse of the winning post. …

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