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Martin Rogers

Nadal's loss opens doors

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There are three rules that matter in tennis. The balls are yellow, it always rains at Wimbledon and, most importantly, Rafael Nadal wins the French Open.

Well, maybe it's time for fluorescent green tennis balls and a sweltering British summer because Sunday saw the biggest Grand Slam shock for years at Roland Garros.

Nadal, the undisputed world No. 1, so dominant on clay that he had never lost a single match at the French, was bundled out in the last 16 by unheralded Swede Robin Soderling.

And suddenly, there is a tournament.

Nadal's superiority on the Paris dirt was such that his fifth straight title here was considered a foregone conclusion.

Who could blame observers for metaphorically etching the Spaniard's name on the trophy once more, given his remarkable record and his utter destruction of Roger Federer in the 2008 final?

But Soderling, an enigmatic player who currently sits at 25 in the rankings, refused to listen to the naysayers and put together a masterpiece of a match.

Nadal was clearly some way short of his best, but that has happened before and he has still won at a canter.

The 22-year-old's stunning exit has injected life into a draw that seemed to be pre-ordained, with Nadal apparently blazing another effortless path through to the final.

Now, with the top half of the draw having been burst open, men such as Andy Murray and Fernando Gonzalez will be harboring bigger ambitions than they might have previously.

If only on the back of this performance Soderling can not be discounted either, although he will still go into his quarterfinal against Nikolay Davydenko as a slight underdog.

However, it is Federer who will really be energized heading into the second week.

Federer has had his dream of a career Grand Slam foiled by Nadal at this venue on four occasions, including last year's 6-1 6-3 6-0 demolition in the final.

Never will he get a better chance to add the Roland Garros crown to his glittering array of silverware, and match Pete Sampras at 14 Slams in the process.

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