Over the past week, 10-year-old Olivia played ten matches in a TEN-PRO Global Junior Tour event hosted by Rafa Nadal Academy in Manacor, Spain. The Swedish girl, who won six and lost four of them, also got the chance to get a picture with the 22-time Grand Slam winner himself.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, Olivia wrote, “Fun week playing @tenproglobaljuniortour at @rafanadalacademy Lots of fun matches and I got many new friends. And I got to meet @rafaelnadal,” along with the photograph with Nadal, who has been out of action since sustaining a hip injury at the Australian Open.
Now, what makes this photograph particularly special? It is the fact that Olivia is the daughter of Robin Soderling, the man who caused one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport 13 years ago when he won 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-6(2) against the Spaniard in the fourth round of the 2009 French Open. It was Nadal’s first-ever defeat at the clay Major, where he has won the title a record 14 times.
Soderling’s win, consequently, opened up a rare opportunity for Roger Federer to claim the throne in Paris. And the Swiss great accepted the chance to win his only French Open title, beating Soderling in the final.
In Nadal’s 115 matches at Roland Garros, he has lost on only two other occasions with Novak Djokovic, another 22-time Grand Slam champion, being his opponent both times. For the record, he did fail to win one more match but that was during the 2016 French Open when he was forced to give his compatriot Marcel Granollers a walkover in the third round due to a wrist injury.
The Soderling-Nadal equation
The Swede and the Spaniard had first locked horns during the opening round of the 2006 French Open which Nadal won in straight sets. However, it was their rain-affected third-round clash at 2007 Wimbledon which made the matchup interesting. Nadal, the eventual runner-up, won the tie 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(7), 4-6, 7-5 which finished in five days and involved a mock pants-hitch at the start of the final set from Soderling, who was frustrated at the amount of time being taken by Nadal between serves. Even the handshake was an unenthusiastic one from the Swede.
In the duo’s next meeting - the third-round clash of the 2009 Italian Open - Nadal blew Soderling away in a 6-1, 6-0 victory during which, the Swede had an argument with the chair umpire and the tournament supervisor about a line call that wrongly went in Nadal’s favour.
A month later, Soderling finally had his moment as he defeated the then-four-time champion Nadal at French Open. Nadal played the match with pain in his knees while also dealing with the matter of his parents separating.
However, a year later, Nadal got redemption by beating Soderling in the 2010 French Open final to lift the La Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy for the fifth time.
The 6’4” tall Soderling played his final professional match at the age of 26 after contracting mononucleosis and formally retired in 2015.
While during his playing days, his relationship with Nadal may have seemed frosty, the picture of his young daughter with the Spaniad somewhat indicates that things have mellowed over time.
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