Paris: Robin Soderling knew what to expect when he faced Rafael Nadal for the French Open title on Sunday -- but he just could not cope with the best claycourt player of his generation.
For the second year in a row, Soderling came up short in the Roland Garros showpiece and he was beaten 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, with Nadal replacing Roger Federer as his tormentor in a one-sided final.
The Swede never quite reproduced the fireworks that helped him beat Nadal in the fourth round last year and he was worn down by the brilliant defence of the Spaniard, who won the title for the fifth time.
"Rafa always plays kind of the same," Soderling said. "He has more or less one game but he does it so well it`s enough to not lose a match on clay for a whole year, which is pretty good.”
"I think everybody knows what to expect when you play against him. He`s moving so well and gets everything back.”
"He`s a great defensive player but also has a great offensive game. He can change defence to offence really quick. That`s why he`s so good."
Soderling did the vast majority of the attacking but the quality of Nadal`s defence meant that the errors inevitably flowed.
The Swede had breakpoint chances in two of Nadal`s service games in the first set but could not take advantage and the Spaniard made him pay by breaking in the fifth game.
Soderling`s last real chance came when he forced four break points in the second game of the second set but once they had been taken away, he never looked capable of turning it around.
"I think in the beginning I was a little bit unlucky, I had a few break chances," he said. "I didn`t take them, so then of course it was tough.”
"The margins are very small. Of course I didn`t play as good this year as I did against him last year. I didn`t serve as well. I wasn`t hitting the ball as clean. But he was playing extremely well. He didn`t miss much.”
"When Rafa is playing like this, you need to have a really good day, which unfortunately I didn`t have today."
Soderling said losing to Nadal was just as bad as losing to Federer in the final last year, but that the only consolation was that he did not have a sniff of victory in either.
"Losing a final in a grand slam is not much fun," he said. "But I wasn`t close in any one of them. I lost straight sets last year and the same this year. It`s always tougher if you lose a really, really close match."