Fri, Jul 06, 2007 - Page 24 News List

Nadal, Soderling trade verbal shots

MARATHON MATCH Irritation levels between the two men soared in a game that streched over more than 90 hours, while Venus Williams routed two Russians in a row

AP , WIMBLEDON, ENGLANDAFP, LONDON

Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after winning his third-round match against Robin Soderling of Sweden in the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club on Wednesday. Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 7-5.

PHOTO: EPA

Who could blame Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling for being a bit sick and tired of each other and, well, Wimbledon as a whole?

They did, after all, spend an awful lot of time trying to finish their third-round match, until the No. 2-seeded Nadal finally won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 7-5 on Wednesday, more than 90 hours after the pair first stepped on Court 1 to warm up.

Still, the on-court animosity and verbal shots traded afterward were hardly in keeping with the genteel setting. The usually affable Nadal, in particular, had harsh words for Soderling -- and questioned tournament organizers.

"He's a strange guy," Nadal said. "I've said `Hi' to him at least seven times since I've been on the tour and he's never answered back. I asked other players about it. It doesn't only happen to me."

Nadal was critical of the way Soderling appeared unconcerned when the three-time French Open champion fell to the turf at one point. Nadal also didn't like the way Soderling pumped a fist instead of offering the customary "sorry about that" wave of a hand after winning a point with the help of a favorable net cord.

"He must have been in his complaining mood today," the 28th-seeded Soderling said. "If my opponent gets a lucky shot and he doesn't say, `I'm sorry,' I don't care. For me, it's OK. Why should I say I'm sorry when it's the happiest moment of my life?"

The last straw for Nadal: What he considered a halfhearted handshake at the net when their marathon ended.

"After four days," Nadal said, "that's not normal."

Told of Nadal's comments, Soderling responded: "I'd probably say the same, but I won't do that. I keep it to myself."

On Monday, Soderling was upset that Nadal persisted in his slow, between-point rituals that many players have complained about, including Andre Agassi at Wimbledon last year. With Nadal ready to serve the opening game of the fifth set, Soderling walked deliberately to the sideline to change rackets -- sending a message.

When Soderling returned to the baseline, Nadal stopped his service motion and held up the ball, as if to say, "Ready now?" That's when Soderling turned away from Nadal and tugged at the back of his shorts, mimicking one of the Spaniard's habits and drawing guffaws from fans.

That all happened Monday, when there were three rain delays -- including one right after Nadal missed a forehand on match point at 7-6 in the third-set tiebreaker. By the time they had to stop Monday night after 8pm, Soderling had won that set and the fourth, too. Nadal, though, led 2-0 in the fifth.

When they picked up again on Tuesday, they got in a total of 19 minutes, enough for Soderling to even the set at 4-all.

It took Nadal about 20 minutes to close it out on Wednesday, and he celebrated by dropping to his knees, as though the championship were his. Instead, Nadal or No. 4 Novak Djokovic -- who completed a three-day, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over Nicolas Kiefer -- faces the prospect of playing on seven consecutive days if either makes it to Sunday's final.

Venus Williams moved to within two matches of a fourth Wimbledon singles crown after a straight sets win over former US Open winner Svetlana Kuznetsova in her quarter-final yesterday.

Williams, who had wiped Maria Sharapova off court in her fourth-round tie, was in equally imperious form as she beat the fifth seed Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4 to advance to a semi-final meeting with either Ana Ivanovic of Serbia or the Czech Republic's Nicole Vaidisova.

This story has been viewed 1969 times.
TOP top