Tennis: Nadal will carry no grudges

RAFAEL NADAL has insisted tomorrow's French Open final against Robin Soderling will not be a grudge match, because the Swede has become a better person in the past year.

The only player ever to beat Nadal at Roland Garros is now all that stands in the way of the Spaniard's fifth title on the Parisien clay after both men won their respective semi-finals yesterday.

Despite last year's shock fourth-round defeat against Soderling, Nadal is not treating thr final as a revenge mission.

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And he also maintained his feud with the 25-year-old at Wimbledon three years ago was a thing of the past. Nadal had been upset by his opponent's conduct during their third-round match at SW19 in 2007, which saw Soderling complain about the time the Spaniard was taking between points as well as mocking his habit of picking at his shorts.

Nadal had said afterwards: "It's not nice. In the end, we will see what's happening at the end of life, no?"

The world No.2 also claimed Soderling had always blanked him in the locker room and that "nobody had anything nice to say about him".

But Nadal, who turned 24 yesterday, was far more conciliatory after his 6-2 6-3 7-6 (8/6) semi-final victory over Jurgen Melzer, saying of the Swede: "I had a little bit more tension than the usual match at Wimbledon.

"But after that, I didn't have one problem with him. I think he's doing well, and at the same time as improving his level of tennis, he's improved his level as a person."

Nadal admitted he would rather have faced Tomas Berdych – who Soderling beat in five sets yesterday – than the Swede in tomorrow's final – but that was only because he had won his last six meetings with the Czech.

The gloss was taken off Soderling's historic victory over Nadal last year because of suggestions the latter was already being troubled by the knee problems that forced him to pull out of Wimbledon, but the Swede insisted after his 6-3 3-6 5-7 6-3 6-3 win over Berdych that it made no difference to him, saying: "He's definitely not the only player who has some problem with his body. I think we all have that from time to time."

Meanwhile, in today's women's final, Francesca Schiavone today claimed she would try taking all the clay on Philippe Chatrier Court home with her if she became the first Italian woman to win a grand slam. Schiavone has already made history at this year's French Open by becoming the first female from her country to reach the final of a major.

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The 29-year-old celebrated her quarter and semi-final successes by dropping to her knees and kissing the Paris clay.

And she plans to go even further if she beats fellow first-time finalist, Australian Samantha Stosur, in the final.

Scooping her hands together, the 17th seed said: "I'll take all the clay like this, and I'll bring it home."