French Open - Nadal reclaims French Open title
Sun, 06 Jun 16:37:00 2010
Nadal is just the second man to win Roland Garros at least five times and is now within one victory of equalling Swede Bjorn Borg's record of six titles.
Victory in Paris also ensured Nadal will overtake Roger Federer and return to the top of the world rankings on Monday after the Swiss player failed to reach the semi-finals of the tournament.
Nadal was in a miserly mood against the man who stunned him in last year's fourth round, his only defeat at Roland Garros.
The Spaniard, who turned 24 on Thursday, controlled the vast majority of the match as he overpowered Soderling with his best performance of the tournament and wrapped up the title when the Swede hit into the net after 98 minutes.
"It's the most emotional day in my career," Nadal told the crowd in French.
"I would like to congratulate Robin for his amazing two years here," Nadal added in English.
"I am sorry for today but I played my best match against you, if I didn't it would have been impossible to beat you."
Soderling, who was also runner-up in Paris in 2009 when he lost to Federer, opened the match with some solid hitting and even earned the first break points of the clash in just the fourth game.
But the chance went begging when the Swede drilled a backhand just long of the baseline and Nadal quickly went on to recover for the hold.
And from there the set belonged to Nadal as he imposed his style of play; the Spaniard breaking in the fifth game by lofting a backhand passing shot just inside the baseline after Soderling opted to leave the ball.
Nadal had chances for a double break just two games later but failed to take advantage of them and even looked as though he might be pegged back when nerves threatened to get the better of him.
Soderling was not at his big-hitting best, however, and drilled forehands long of the line before only just saving set points in the next game when his serve got him out of trouble.
Nadal made no such mistake when he served for the first set though and quickly formalised his lead when Soderling ran around the ball and fired a forehand wide across court.
The second set was one-way traffic as Nadal broke in the fifth game, with a forehand winner, and in the seventh game, with a vicious cross court backhand that overpowered Soderling, before doubling his lead at the first attempt when the Swede hit wide.
Nadal threatened to run away with the match when he broke in the opening game of the third set; Soderling's power game imploded as he slapped groundstrokes long off both wings.
But the Swede is nothing if not resilient and staved off break points in the seventh game, when Nadal ripped a backhand long of the baseline, and confidently held to 30 two games later to force the Spaniard to serve for the title.
Any hope Soderling had that Nadal would suffer a recurrence of the nerves he suffered when serving for a place in the final were quickly dismissed as the Spaniard raced through a service game to bring up three championship points.
And only one was needed as Soderling fired an off-balance backhand into the net to help Nadal reclaim the crown that the Swede had denied him 12 months ago.
"Five victories here is really amazing," Soderling told Nadal. "If you continue to play like this, you will for sure have the chance to win many more.
"I will come back next year. I hope it will be third time lucky for me."
Rafael Nadal victory
Pippa Davis / Eurosport