Paris: Forget revenge or number one rankings, all Rafael Nadal will care about on Sunday against Sweden`s Robin Soderling will be reclaiming his French Open title.
Circumstances have conspired to create an intriguing men`s singles final between the Spaniard and the Swede who ambushed his hopes of a fifth consecutive title here last year with a victory that reverberated far beyond Roland Garros.
Following that fourth round defeat, Nadal`s career hit its lowest ebb when knee problems prevented him defending his Wimbledon title and he slipped back below Roger Federer in the rankings. Many feared his career was in decline.
Fast forward a year and the 24-year-old looks as irrestible as ever on his beloved claycourts.
He is yet to drop a set here so far and has won 21 consecutive matches on the red dust, taking in titles in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid. The Mallorcan boats a 37-1 record at the French Open but the one blemish still niggles him.
But for Soderling, Nadal would probably be seeking a sixth consecutive French Open title on Sunday. Now the Swede and his heavy artillery tennis stands in his way again.
"I never believe in revenge, I believe in trying my best in every moment. If I lose, I lose, and I`ll congratulate Robin because he did better than me," Nadal told reporters.
"For me, revenge doesn`t exist in any match, and especially in the final at Roland Garros."
Some have even hyped up the final as a grudge match as Soderling has got under Nadal`s skin on previous occasions, particularly during a five-set clash at Wimbledon in 2007 where he imitated the Spaniard`s habit of yanking his shorts.
Nadal insists there is no bad feeling.
"After that I didn`t have one problem with him. I think he`s doing well, and at the same time he improves his level of tennis. I think he improved his personality."
Borg Backs Soderling
That Soderling has improved his tennis is beyond doubt. The 25-year-old whose game is based on a huge first serve and a punishing forehand was too much for defending champion Federer in the quarter-finals here.
Bjorn Borg, the six-times French Open champion, even believes his fellow Swede could go all the way number one in the world.
"There is probably no one tennis player in the world with more confidence right now," he said this week.
"Robin has every attribute that tennis players should have. First in the world is and should be the goal."
Soderling almost met his match against Tomas Berdych in the semi-final, eventually winning in five sets against a player with almost identical weapons. What gave the Swede the edge was the self-belief that soared after beating Nadal last year.
He also beat beat Nadal at the World Tour Finals in London last November and clearly believes he can do it again.
"We played many times. He beat me a lot of times, and I beat him a few times. It`s always good to have beaten a player before. I know that I can beat him. I showed it," Soderling told reporters as he prepared for his second French Open final.
"Hopefully I won`t be as nervous as I was last year (against Federer). Not only the final here last year, I played many big matches the last year against good players on big courts."
Victory for Soderling would take him into the world`s top four while Nadal will usurp Federer as number one.
"If I win on Sunday, it`s gonna be the last thing that I think about," Nadal said. "I`m number two, I`m happy where I am. Roland Garros is only one time. Number one is still there for a few more months."