The French Open typically does not get a ton of attention on the American sports landscape, and with good reason.
The NBA Finals are about to begin, baseball is in full swing, and tradition-steeped Wimbledon is right on its heels.
But if you missed it, and even if you don’t really care that much about tennis, what happened Sunday in Paris was an upset of monumental proportions for any sports fan.
The French Open is played on red clay. It’s a surface that rewards pinpoint accuracy over the lightning speed of hard-courts and grass. It also has been Rafael Nadal’s playground for the past four years.
In the last year Nadal has morphed from a Spanish whiz kid who could take the French as his only Grand Slam to the king of tennis. He dethroned Swiss superman Roger Federer at Wimbledon last year and outlasted him in one of the most exhilarating matches ever played in the 2009 Australian Open final.
Winning the French for a fifth straight year seemed like a mere afterthought en route to the anticipated rematch with Federer to keep his Wimbledon title.
And then along came a Swede named Robin Soderling.
Now, I don’t follow tennis extremely close, but most of the top players I’ve at least heard of. If you asked me to name a Swedish tennis player, my answer would be Bjorn Borg, who dominated the sport before an early retirement nearly 30 years ago.
In other words, I’d never heard of Soderling before yesterday and I am still recovering from the shock of Nadal losing on clay.
How big of an upset is this?
Remember when George Mason made the Final Four?
Or when the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 hole to beat the Yankees and swept the Cardinals in the World Series?
In tennis terms, Nadal’s upset is on the same level.