Grand slam! Nadal knocked out at French Open
Shocker at Roland Garros; women's holder Ana Ivanovic trounced too.
Paris: Roland Garros witnessed one of its biggest upsets ever on Sunday when four-times champion Rafael Nadal was brought to his knees in a 6-2 6-7 6-4 7-6 defeat by Sweden's Robin Soderling in the fourth round.
The Spanish world number one had not lost a match at Roland Garros since his debut on the claycourt grand slam in 2005, stringing together a 31-0 record before Sunday.
The six-times grand slam champion seemed lacking in energy on Centre Court, losing the first set in 34 minutes before rallying back to win the second in a tiebreak 7-2.
Soderling brushed that off as a mere inconvenience on his way to making sure a second champion was dismissed that day after women's holder Ana Ivanovic was earlier beaten by Belarussian teenager Victoria Azarenka.
"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."
Ivanovic surrendered her French Open crown without much of a fight when she was totally outclassed in the fourth round by a the 19-year-old Azarenka who never lost belief.
The Belarussian has been rising up the ranks steadily and she finally announced her arrival on the big stage when she condemned the Serbian eighth seed to a 6-2 6-3 defeat. As Ivanovic bid an early farewell to Roland Garros, 19-year-old Azarenka set up a quarter-final date with champion-in-waiting Dinara Safina.
The Russian top seed's headlong charge towards a maiden grand slam title showed no sign of running out of steam as she flattened Aravane Rezai 6-1 6-0.
Men's third seed Andy Murray was also in sparkling form as he strung together four successive wins on his least favourite surface for the first time by stamping out the challenge of Croatia's Marin Cilic with a 7-5 7-6 6-1 win.
Murray let out a big yawn as he walked on to Suzanne Lenglen Court but it was Cilic who was soon wishing he had stayed in bed when 40 unforced errors flew off his racket to help the Scot on his way.
The win not only made him the first Briton to reach the last eight since 2004 but kept Murray in the race against Roger Federer to secure the world number two spot by the end of the tournament.
Former world number one Justine Henin urged Safina to stamp her mark on the sport and the Russian appears to have taken the message to heart, dropping only five games in four rounds at the clay court major.
"I don't waste my energy. I want to win every point," said the 23-year-old, who has bagged four of the eight sets she has contested to love.
"I'm just surprised that it's really like five games that I lost before getting into the quarters. It's not a bad feeling, and I hope if I continue like this I can go a long way." 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.
The 20th seed sealed victory over Venus Williams's conqueror with a sweetly struck forehand down the line after a long rally. Fernando 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.
The Chilean, who will next face Murray, has yet to drop a set at this year's event.
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