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Soderling storm stuns Nadal

FOUR-TIME champion Rafael Nadal was knocked out in the fourth round of the French Open, beaten 2-6, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-7 (2) by Sweden's Robin Soderling yesterday.

The world No. 1 had taken a 31-0 record into the contest as he had not lost a match at Roland Garros since his debut at the claycourt grand slam in 2005. He had also lost only seven sets - the last one coming against Roger Federer in the 2007 final.

But Soderling paid little attention to the script as he brought the top-seeded Spaniard down on his knees to cause one of the biggest shocks ever seen in Paris.

"I told myself this is just another match," said the jubilant Soderling. "All the time, I was trying to play as if it was a training session. When I was 4-1 up in the tiebreak, I started to believe."

Six-time grand slam champion Nadal looked weary on center court, losing the first set in 34 minutes before rallying back to win the second in a tiebreak 7-2.

It was not enough to break Soderling's resilience as the 23rd-seeded Swede broke once in the third to take the lead and snatched the fourth set tiebreak 7-2, wrapping up the win after three hours 30 minutes on his second match point.

Defending women's champion Ana Ivanovic also lost, while top-seeded Dinara Safina advanced to the quarterfinals with another easy win.

Also on the men's side, No. 3 Andy Murray of Britain and No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile made the quarterfinals.

Nadal had won three of the last four major titles, missing out only on the US Open. Because he won the Australian Open, he had been the only man with a chance to complete a grand slam.

He had also been trying to become the first man to win five straight French Open titles.

Instead, the draw has completely opened up for three-time finalist Roger Federer. The former No. 1 needs only to win the French Open title to complete a career grand slam, and his road got clearer on Saturday when potential semifinal opponent Novak Djokovic was eliminated.

The eighth-seeded Ivanovic did little right, converting only two of five break points and making 20 unforced errors in her 2-6, 3-6 loss to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus while Safina flattened Aravane Rezai of France 6-1, 6-0.

Murray was also in sparkling form as he strung together four successive wins on his least favorite surface for the first time by stamping out the challenge of Croatia's Marin Cilic with a 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-1 win.

Gonzalez lived up to his nickname of "Speedy" as he darted into the last eight with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Romanian 30th seed Victor Hanescu.

Slovak Dominika Cibulkova made it through to the last eight of a grand slam for the first time when she outwitted Hungarian Agnes Szavay 6-2, 6-4.


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