Nadal and Soderling on course for final showdown
Paris: While champions have crashed all around him at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal has arrived at the French Open semi-finals unruffled and bang on course to reclaim his crown.
The Spaniard, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Thursday, is now overwhelming favourite to add to his four French Open titles after storming into the last four without losing a set.
What is more standing in his way on Friday is Jurgen Melzer, the Austrian who had never once been beyond the third round of a grand slam tournament until this week.
Melzer, the first Austrian man since Thomas Muster in 1995 to reach the semi-final of a grand slam, produced an inspired comeback to beat Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, one of many upsets at this unpredictable tournament.
The biggest in the men`s draw once again involved Robin Soderling, the Swede who is the only man to beat Nadal at Roland Garros. He was at it again on Tuesday when he knocked out defending champion Roger Federer in four sets.
Soderling faces Tomas Berdych in the top half after the Czech accounted for Britain`s fourth seed Andy Murray on the way to his first grand slam semi-final.
Only Nadal`s progress has been predictable and he looks set to get the perfect chance to avenge last year`s fourth round defeat by Soderling in Sunday`s final should they both play to form in the semis.
"I never think about revenge," Nadal told reporters after beating compatriot Nicolas Almagro on Wednesday.
"I`m in the semi-finals against Melzer and it will be a very difficult match. I`m focused on that match right now."
The pair has met only twice, with Nadal winning each time, and a Melzer victory would top any of the shocks seen here so far.
Soderling, who lost to Federer in last year`s final, will also start as favourite against Berdych.
The fifth seed`s form has been as, if not more, impressive than Nadal`s here so far and he has dropped just one set.
In the last 16 he overpowered Marin Cilic and some of his sledgehammer forehands against Federer were simply unplayable.
A year after announcing himself as a major player by beating Nadal on his beloved Court Philippe Chatrier, Soderling now looks like a man who truly believes he can win a grand slam.
First, though he has to deal with Berdych, a player he lost to this year in Miami. "He`s a dangerous player when he`s playing good," Soderling said.